Is it allergies or COVID-19? How to tell the difference based on common symptoms

With spring around the corner, many people may mix up their allergy symptoms with COVID-19 symptoms

HOUSTON – Tree pollen is about to cause some trouble in Houston, and this year it may also cause confusion as people wonder if their symptoms are just seasonal allergies or COVID-19 related.

“Every time I have the nasal congestion symptoms, I get a little bit nervous and I’m like ‘Should I get a COVID test?” allergy sufferer Melissa Edgar asked KPRC 2 at Memorial Park on Monday.

And she’s not alone. Other allergy sufferers are also asking the same questions.

“We are on the brink of our spring allergy season,” said Dr. Michael Kaplan, an ENT with Houston Sinus Center. “It can be quite confusing if you are out in the environment and you are allergic to the tree pollen and you develop a cough or congestion.”

Kaplan said if you are sneezing, have itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, or a runny nose, then it’s likely allergies.

But if you have fever, shortness of breath, body aches, or loss of taste and smell, those symptoms could be something more serious like COVID-19.

“For those who are unsure, you might be concerned that you are developing early signs of COVID, feel free to get tested. But if you have a history of allergies and you can correlate it with the time and the exposure, it’s probably just allergies,” said Kaplan.

Evelyn Suvratagosh knows the difference. She suffers from allergies and has also had COVID-19.

“Fever that wouldn’t come down with Tylenol or with Codeine,” said Suvratagosh as she described her COVID-19 symptoms. “Just like so intense.”

The biggest difference for her was the high fever and pounding headache.

Kaplan reminds people that allergy season is just beginning.

“The tree pollen is going to start to accumulate in the next few weeks. That will begin to taper off towards the end of April and beginning of May. Then you’re looking at grass pollen, but the tree pollen is the big culprit here,” said Kaplan.