How to Tell the Difference Between Allergies and COVID-19


COVID-19 is a new respiratory illness that’s affecting people of all ages around the world. As of March 20, 2021, nearly 30 million people in the United States have contracted this illness, and 540,000 of those have died. Though we don’t know everything about it yet, scientists are learning more every day. The good news is that most people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms. However, older adults and those with certain underlying medical conditions have an increased risk of severe illness.

When comparing coronavirus vs. allergies, the primary difference is that COVID-19 is a virus, while seasonal allergies are triggered by airborne pollen, which then leads to an overreaction of the immune system.

Coronavirus vs. allergies: How to tell the difference

COVID-19 and seasonal allergies share many of the same symptoms, so it may be difficult to tell the difference between them. The key difference between coronavirus vs. allergies is fever, which is a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, People with seasonal allergies do not develop a fever, while many people with COVID-19 do. Here is a breakdown of symptoms to help you tell the difference:

Common symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Unexplained sudden loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Common Symptoms of seasonal allergies

  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Sneezing

Common symptoms of both

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (*only for those with a pre-existing respiratory condition, like asthma)

Please note that this is not a complete list of all possible symptoms of COVID-19 or seasonal allergies. Also, it is possible to have symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies simultaneously.

What if I can’t tell the difference on my own?

If you’re unsure whether you have COVID-19, seasonal allergies or even the flu, you may need to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm your diagnosis. This test is regarded as the gold standard in SARS-CoV-2 detection. It has the ability to detect the presence of other viruses as well, including flu variants in as little as 2 business days. State Urgent Care is now offering these rapid antibody tests to help you determine if you’ve previously been exposed.

To test for the COVID-19 virus, a health care provider uses a long cotton swab to take a sample from the nose or throat. The samples are then sent to a lab for testing. If you’re coughing up mucus, it may be sent for testing as well.

What to do if you are sick

If you or a loved one believes they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and are exhibiting symptoms, here is what to do:

  • Stay home
    Anyone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus should stay home except to get medical care. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested. Most people experience mild symptoms and are able to recover safely at home. However, if you experience an emergency warning sign, like breathing difficulties, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new or unexplained confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake, or skin discoloration in the lips or nail beds, call 911 or go directly to your local emergency room for immediate treatment.
  • Self-isolate
    Self-isolate for 10 days since you first had symptoms, until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and all other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. (Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months. You do not need to isolate while recovering from these particular symptoms.) As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home and, if possible, use a separate bathroom.
  • Take care of yourself
    Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Drinking water will help you replace the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost through things like fever and perspiration. It can also help loosen mucus and relieve congestion. Also, take an over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen to help reduce pain and fever symptoms.

State Urgent Care is conveniently located on South Montgomery Street in Starkville, MS (next to CVS) and is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. For even faster service, download, print and complete your new patient forms before coming in. Telemedicine appointments are also available. Call 662-339-1876. All you need is a microphone- and camera-enabled laptop, tablet or smartphone, valid ID, and insurance information.

*Telemedicine appointments are not covered by Medicaid plans.