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Allergies or COVID? | Navigating Symptoms This Spring

Another year, another round of seasonal allergy symptoms that might be something more serious. If you're experiencing these common symptoms, here's how to know when it's time for a COVID test.

As the ground defrosts and spring weather comes out in full force, so do allergies. Ever since the pandemic began, there has been significant overlap of symptoms between allergies and COVID. Some of the more recent variants have nearly identical symptom sets, so what’s a cautious, health-conscious individual to do? Here are some things to take note of and the true test of whether you’re facing a battle with COVID or seasonal allergies.

Allergy and COVID Symptom Overlap

“Really, many of the symptoms are identical between seasonal allergies and COVID-19,” Dr. Jennifer Petts, DO, FAAAAI, said. Not sure what you’re looking for, exactly? Here is a list of COVID symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Now, let’s compare to a list of typical seasonal allergy symptoms:

  • Itchy, watery or red eyes
  • Circles under eyes
  • Itchy mouth, nose or throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Drainage from the nose down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
  • Temporary loss of smell
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Snoring (due to congestion)

The initial onset of symptoms that look like COVID can be alarming.

“Length of symptoms can help rule out COVID, though even that isn’t foolproof,” Dr. Petts said. “Generally, if your symptoms are hanging around for more than 14 days, it’s less likely to be COVID. But really, there’s only one way to know for sure.”

If you’re experiencing fever, chills, and body aches, this is an indication that your body is fighting off a virus as opposed to an allergy. Typical seasonal allergy symptoms accompanied by fever and chills should be taken seriously if symptoms don’t subside within a couple of days.

The Only Real Way to Know If It’s COVID

It might not be the best news, but the only way to rule out COVID for real is to get a PCR COVID test from your primary care provider or at a testing location in your community. While at-home tests can help determine a negative or positive without setting up an appointment, the error rate on at-home tests should be considered depending on the severity of your symptoms.

“At-home tests are certainly a valuable tool for people, but if you’re concerned and want to know for sure, you’re going to want a PCR test. It takes a little longer to receive the results, but they’re more accurate because of the way they test,” Dr. Petts said.

What to Do When It’s Not COVID

If you’ve taken a test or your milder symptoms have persisted over a longer period, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with something other than COVID.

When you’ve successfully tested negative for COVID, consider discussing allergy testing with your doctor.

“The thing I really want people to know is that you don’t have to live with the annoying symptoms that people associate with allergies. If you are experiencing these symptoms seasonally, your body is having an allergic response to some kind of trigger. One of the best things you can do is undergo allergy testing to have the information about what you’re allergic to. That’s how you can find better relief,” Dr. Petts said.

Allergy testing has come a long way over the years. It is no longer the scary, potentially scar-inducing test that many concerned patients have in their mind when the discussion comes up. In fact, Dr. Petts and the allergy specialists at The Iowa Clinic are experts in providing testing with minimal discomfort and accurate results.

Allergy Treatment at The Iowa Clinic

At The Iowa Clinic, your care team works together to determine the best and most effective care plan to alleviate your symptoms and get you back to normal life quickly. Our Coordinated Care model provides the significant advantage of cross-department communication and collaboration all under one roof.

If you’re worried about your symptoms, talk to your doctor about the best course of action. If you’re ready to consider allergy testing and treatment, call to schedule an appointment with The Iowa Clinic’s trusted providers.

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