Is it allergies or something else?

With the delta variant of novel coronavirus spreading across America, respiratory health is once again on the forefront of all our minds. And with flu season and fall allergies all cascading at once, there are plenty of things this time of year that may make you cough, sniffle, and sneeze. It's important to differentiate what may be causing your symptoms so that you can get the treatment you need.

So, let's roll up our sleeves and discuss the symptom overlap between the flu, allergies, and COVID-19 in order to answer that pesky question, "Is it allergies or something else?"

Symptom Overlap

Cough, fever, shortness of breath, headaches, and fatigue are not only common overlapping symptoms between COVID-19 and the normal flu, but coughing, fatigue, and sinus headaches are can also be symptoms of allergies. Because of the overlapping symptoms between these three conditions, determining the best next steps for your health can be confusing. That's why it's important to rule-in or rule-out which of these diseases may be causing a cough, sneeze, or achy sinuses.Visiting your healthcare provider at their clinic is a good place to start to discover what's causing your symptoms.

What to expect at the clinic

It appears that co-infection (in other words, having both the flu and novel coronavirus) is less common; thus, in clinical practices, healthcare providers may start with testing for COVID-19 first to evaluate patients. It's possible that allergies and either the flu or novel coronavirus can occur simultaneously.

When you end up in your healthcare provider's office, your clinical history will be paramount. Expect your healthcare provider to take a detailed history to decide which testing is appropriate.

Be prepared to share:

  • Symptoms and frequency
  • Other changes in health or new symptoms that you've noticed
  • Whether you've traveled out of the country recently, or if you've had contact with anyone with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
  • Discussing with your healthcare provider if an allergy blood test is right for you may also be an important step in understanding what's causing your symptoms. Determining, for example, if your cough is due to an allergy to mold in the kitchen, or if your pet is causing your allergic asthma exacerbations may bring you closer to managing your symptoms and getting relief.

    Fill out this symptom profile prior to your appointment so you're prepared for a quick and easy conversation about allergies with your provider.

    What if it's only allergies?

    Managing your allergy symptoms may be easier than you think. Allergies "stack" until they hit a symptom threshold, causing itchy eyes, sniffles, sneezing, and more.1 If you stay below that threshold, your allergy symptoms may lessen or disappear. Reducing exposure to what you're allergic to, like keeping your pet out of the bedroom, cleaning mold in the bathroom, keeping windows shut on high pollen days, etc., may keep you below your threshold and breathing easy this fall.

    For more information on how to reduce exposure to allergic triggers or any other allergy related questions, visit Allergy Insider.


    [1] 1. 1. Wickman M. When allergies complicate allergies. Allergy. 2005;60 (Suppl 79):14–18.

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