Last updated on March 30, 2021

Allergy season is here, which for many means sneezing, runny nose, a cough or congestion. These symptoms take on a different meaning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however. COVID-19 can present with many different symptoms, and after a year of social distancing, we are all being a little extra careful with any cough, sneeze or sniffle.

So how can you tell if your symptoms are caused by allergies or something more serious like COVID-19? Read on to learn more.

Allergy symptoms vs. COVID-19 symptoms

Upper respiratory conditions like cold, flu, allergies and COVID-19 may seem to have very similar symptoms. However, it is important to understand the key differences so you can better tell them apart if you get sick.

When it comes to better understanding allergies and COVID-19, first, let’s look at the symptoms they share. Below is a list of symptoms that can occur with both allergies and COVID-19 infections:

  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Sinus infection, which is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of blocked nasal passages, can also occur as a result of both COVID-19 and seasonal allergies. So how do you know if you have a sinus infection? Many people think yellow or green mucus is a guaranteed way to spot a sinus infection, but Dr. Pedro Checo, internist and Teladoc doctor, says this just isn’t true. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s been proven over decades. In certain cases, yellow mucus can even indicate that you’re improving.” The best way to tell if you have a sinus infection? Schedule an appointment with a Teladoc doctor.

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What are the symptoms that seasonal allergies and COVID-19 don’t have in common?

Below are the symptoms that are more commonly associated with seasonal allergies, and therefore unlikely to occur as a result of COVID-19:

  • Rash
  • Itchy, watery eyes

Below is a list of symptoms that are rarely caused by seasonal allergies. If you are dealing with one or more of the following, it is unlikely that seasonal allergies are the cause:

  • Fever greater than 101 degrees
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Bloody mucus

Consulting this allergy symptom comparison chart can help you understand what might be causing your symptoms.

How do I tell the difference between COVID-19 and allergies?

If you or a loved one is feeling sick, answer the following questions to help decide if you are sick with seasonal allergies or something more serious, like the flu or COVID-19.

Do you have a fever above 101 degrees?

Based on the symptoms above, one important distinction between COVID-19 and allergies is body temperature. Although allergies can sometimes be referred to as hay fever, it is very rare to have a body temperature above 101 degrees as a result of seasonal allergies. High-grade fevers are also rare in those with a common cold. If you or a loved one has a high-grade fever, it is more likely the result of a more serious illness like the flu or COVID-19. If you have a fever or are seeking advice about COVID-19, be sure to schedule an appointment to speak with a Teladoc doctor.

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Have you lost your sense of taste and/or smell?

Loss of taste or smell is another key difference between COVID-19 and seasonal allergy infections. While nasal congestion can cause a loss of smell, people who are sick with a COVID-19 infection may lose their sense of smell and/or taste without any sinus congestion at all. According to the CDC, loss of smell or taste has been commonly reported as a COVID-19 symptom among women and younger or middle-aged patients.

Are you experiencing shortness of breath?

In those who have both seasonal allergies and asthma, an allergic reaction can cause an asthma attack, and with it, shortness of breath or wheezing. This is also a symptom of a more severe COVID-19 infection. It is important to treat a possible asthma attack as quickly as possible, and pay close attention to any worsening symptoms.

If you are experiencing shortness of breath and also have any of the following emergency warning signs for COVID-19 as outlined by the CDC, it is important to seek out immediate emergency medical attention:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone

If you are unsure about what your symptoms may mean, contact Teladoc 24/7 for treatment or advice from a U.S. board-certified doctor.

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