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Is it COVID-19 or allergies? Cleveland Clinic allergist explains the difference

Cherry Flowers
Posted at 12:23 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 12:23:05-04

CLEVELAND — Is it symptoms of the coronavirus or spring allergy symptoms? That’s the question some are asking themselves as spring brings back grass, pollen and weeds while also facing the threat of contracting COVID-19.

Dr. Sandra Hong, a Cleveland Clinic allergist, said spring allergy symptoms can mimic those of COVID-19, but she says there are a couple telltale signs that could help you differentiate between the two.

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Dr. Sandra Hong.

"So with allergies, I usually say itching and sneezing kind of points me in the direction more of allergies than COVID. Definitely fevers and aching and a really quick loss of sense of taste or smell that's more COVID," Hong said.

Hong said if you typically get the same symptoms every year—itching and sneezing, it’s likely you have allergies.

"Typically with coronavirus, the symptoms will last for a couple of weeks," said Dr. Hong. “They can sometimes be lingering, but typically not like allergies where they can be months on end; a whole season.”

Hong said she breaks up allergies into two categories—seasonal and year-round allergies. Dust mites, mold and cats and dogs are year-round allergies, while grass, trees and weeds are considered seasonal.

"I usually say that from about when it starts to warm up until about Memorial Day, it's tree season and from about Memorial Day to Labor Day is grass season. And from Labor Day to the first snowfall is weed season," said Hong.

Hong said there are avoidance techniques anyone can do to combat allergy symptoms. She said although the weather has been nice, the ideal situation would be to close all the windows in your house and turn the air or heat on to keep the pollen outside.

While difficult to do, she recommends people not sleep with their pets.

"They're covered in the pollen that you're allergic to. So you're bringing that right into your bed with you. The other things that I usually have people do is take a shower and basically change your clothes before they climb into bed at night so that you're not bringing a tree into bed with you."

For more over-the-counter remedies, she said, any sinus rinse can do wonders. The important thing to remember, she says, is to use distilled water so you don’t get an infection.

"They [the rinses] can be very helpful after a long day outside, just like you're taking a shower and getting all that pollen off. If you rinse out your sinuses, you're getting rid of all the pollen that's in your nose in the back of your throat, and that can help your symptoms dramatically," she said.

However, if any new symptoms arise, Dr. Hong said it’s a good idea to contact a healthcare professional just to be sure it’s not COVID-19.

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