How To Differentiate Between Coronavirus and Allergies

09 June, 2020
Some symptoms of coronavirus are similiar to those we experience when we have allergies. Therefore, it's important to know the difference between allergies and coronavirus in order to know if you should see a doctor. Today's article will help clear things up.

How can you tell the difference between coronavirus and allergies?

First of all, experts recommend that you contact your physician if you suspect you may be infected with the coronavirus. Otherwise, go to a medical center where you can be evaluated.

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between coronavirus and allergies. So, how can you know if you need to see your doctor or if you should continue to stay home?

First of all, we want to clarify that all illnesses, including allergies and COVID-19, will manifest themselves differently according to each individual. Therefore, when in doubt, it’s best to consult with your doctor, whether online, by phone, or in person.

In the case of COVID-19, experts recommend staying at home and requesting medical attention by phone. This is because the illness is highly contagious, and it’s best to remain in confinement.

The difference between coronavirus and allergies: Coronavirus symptoms

People with the coronavirus infection, or COVID-19, usually have symptoms that are similar to the flu. According to information published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the main clinical symptoms of infection are the following:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue

Some people may experience additional symptoms, such as muscle pain, nasal congestion, sore throat, or diarrhea. These symptoms tend to be mild and appear gradually or progressively. In most cases, people with the coronavirus infection recover within a week or a bit more without a need for special treatment.

A small percentage of patients that develop the coronavirus infection (COVID-19) may manifest more severe problems and have difficulty breathing, thus requiring hospitalization. Often, these are high-risk patients with previous respiratory conditions, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and diseases involving the immune system, among others.

An elderly patient with coronavirus.
In most cases, patients with coronavirus improve in a matter of a week. However, there are risk groups that may experience complications and require hospitalization.

You can also read: What’s the Origin of Coronavirus and Why Haven’t We Been Able to Eradicate It?

About coronavirus

The principle way that coronavirus spreads is from person to person. It does so using respiratory droplets that infected individuals expel when they talk, sneeze, or cough. However, possible contagion can also occur in individuals that come into contact with a contaminated surface then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth without washing their hands first.

The epidemiology of coronavirus infection changes day by day and will be different from one country to the next. This is because it’s a new illness and there’s no previous immunity among the world population.

Therefore, every suspected case of coronavirus infection requires evaluation within its particular context. Factors that specialists will consider are previous travel, country of residence, contact with infected individuals, the presence of indigenous cases, etc.

Health professionals find themselves constantly renewing their knowledge of this new virus and are aware of what they should do in each case. Finally, it’s important to point out that people who have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.

The difference between coronavirus and allergies: Allergy symptoms

The term “allergy” refers to a set of reactions by the immune system to the presence of allergens in the body. In this article, we’re referring specifically to allergic rhinitis (or hay fever). This is the type of allergy that may come to confuse now that the current coronavirus outbreak exists.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis are as follows:

  • Sneezing fits
  • Nasal congestion or drippage
  • Itchy, watery, and red eyes
  • Itchy throat and nose
  • Cough
  • Postnasal drip
  • Bags under the eyes
  • Tiredness

We know that hay fever quite a common problem both in children and adults. Sometimes, it can also come along with other allergic reactions in other parts of the body. On many occasions, there’s a history of allergies in the family.

In general, symptoms are limited to the area of the face, will be persistent, and do not get worse over time. Rather, they tend to disappear within a matter of hours once the individual moves away from or eliminates the allergen.

An elderly patient with coronavirus.
While the symptoms of coronavirus get progressively worse over time, allergy symptoms do not. What’s more, they fade one the individual moves away from the allergen.

The comparison between coronavirus and allergies

When we compare both illnesses, we can see that several of their symptoms overlap. However, it also becomes clear that some symptoms are specific to each one, such as a fever. These more specific symptoms allow us to differentiate between the coronavirus and allergies.

In any case, it’s easy to become worried at first, especially since COVID-19 has the potential to produce very mild symptoms – or none at all.  For this reason, it’s important to get medical attention if you suspect you may have COVID-19, and consider the following:

  • Previous allergies
  • Contact with infected individuals
  • Previous travel to areas with a high index of contagion

All of this information will play a role in determining whether your symptoms have to do with the current pandemic or may an allergic reaction. Your doctor will be the one to determine if testing is necessary.

Discover more: How Coronavirus Affects the Skin

What you need to understand about coronavirus and allergies

Before setting off any alarms regarding coronavirus infection, it’s important to determine the existence of previous allergies and how their symptoms evolve. While there are some similarities, allergies tend to improve without complications. Just the same, when in doubt, it’s best to check with a medical professional, request proper testing, and remain in confinement.

  • WHO. (2020). Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  • WHO. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Emergencies – Diseases, (December 2019), 2020. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
  • Sohrabi, C., Alsafi, Z., O’Neill, N., Khan, M., Kerwan, A., Al-Jabir, A., … Agha, R. (2020, April 1). World Health Organization declares global emergency: A review of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). International Journal of Surgery. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2020.02.034
  • Greiner, A. N., Hellings, P. W., Rotiroti, G., & Scadding, G. K. (2011). Allergic rhinitis. The Lancet. Lancet Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60130-X