Know the difference between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms

Know the difference between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms

Here are five ways to tell whether you are suffering from COVID-19 or allergies. 


We’re all hyper aware of what the primary Covid-19 symptoms are: a fever, dry cough, loss of smell or taste, fatigue and body aches, and shortness of breath. But the problem is that similar symptoms can appear in cases where people aren’t actually suffering from the coronavirus.  

Allergies are extremely common at various times of the year, and many of the symptoms you experience from those may feel like they could be signs that you have the Coronavirus. It’s easy to panic, but before you start Googling and making yourself even more stressed, read through the points below so you’re better informed.

  • Medical history 

Stop. Think. Are you a frequent sufferer from allergies? If your medical history includes seasonal allergies, then this could be them appearing again. Allergies are caused by your immune system reacting strongly (too strongly) to normal things in your environment like dust mites or pet hair, so think about whether you may have been exposed to any of these triggers.  

We’re all spending a lot more time outdoors these days due to lockdown restrictions, so allergens like grass and pollen could also be causing an allergic response in your body. Allergies respond well to antihistamines, which you may have handy if you’ve been diagnosed in the past. 

  • Itchiness or fever? 

Are your eyes or nose itchy? Colds, flu and COVID-19 do not cause itchiness, so if you’ve been scratching away and your eyes are puffy, then it’s more likely to be allergies. Allergies are also generally more localised, focused on the nose, ears and throat, whereas COVID-19 causes a system-wide response, often with body aches and chills, and sometimes a fever.

READ: You can still die from COVID-19 without showing ‘typical’ symptoms - warns doctor

  • Shortness of breath 

Shortness of breath is one of the most marked signs of Covid-19, which can occur prior to the onset of pneumonia. Allergies typically affect your breath only if you are congested, or if you are an asthma sufferer. Either way this is a serious symptom, so if you are finding it difficult to breathe, you need to see a medical professional urgently.

  • Loss of sense of smell or taste 

This unique symptom of Covid-19 is not something you experience if you have allergies (unless it’s just a blocked nose). However, it’s also worth noting that this particular symptom is not as common with the more recent Delta variant of the virus, according to data from the NHS in the UK and the team behind the Zoe Covid Symptom study*. They have noted that headaches, sore throats and runny noses are more common with this latest variant of the virus.

READ: Worst plants for your allergies

  • Transmission 

Allergy symptoms usually start within 48 hours after you’ve been exposed to the allergen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days, but the average time from infection to becoming symptomatic is five days. If you think you may have Covid-19, the most important thing to do is to seek medical care, get tested and isolate yourself so you don’t spread the virus.  

And if you do end up requiring hospitalisation, some medical aids like Fedhealth are offering “hospital at home” as a service to suitable candidates, giving people a team of trained healthcare professionals who bring all the elements of in-patient care to a patient’s own home, including real-time monitoring. 

We all need to work together to fight this virus and education is key to this. Most importantly, if you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing allergies or something more serious, seek medical attention so you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

READ: Severe symptoms to look out for when self-isolating

 Image courtesy of iStock/ @g-stockstudio

Disclaimer: Health-related information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor on any health-related issues.

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