How You Can Tell The Difference Between Allergies Cold Flu And Covid
Eyes watering? Runny nose? Feel like your head is locked in an ever-tighter vice?
Sounds like the start of seasonal allergies, maybe a cold or flu . . . but not COVID-19.
To keep anxiety levels down, and reduce the crush on local healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic, its important to know the difference between seasonal allergies or other illness and the more serious COVID-19.
This novel coronavirus causes a respiratory illness manifested by fever, cough and difficulty breathing, said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, the chief of infectious diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.
Pay particular attention to that combination of three symptoms. Less frequently, says the World Health Organization, a COVID-19 infection can produce symptoms similar to the flu like aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion or diarrhea.
Allergies, unlike coronavirus, do not cause a fever and seldom shortness of breath. Yet the sneezing, runny nose, congestion and itchy, watery eyes are more than an inconvenience. Sometimes allergy sufferers dont know whether theyre suffering from seasonal allergies, a nasty cold or even asthma that might require a doctors attention.
A cold usually reveals itself gradually. The flu can hit like an anvil.
Flu symptoms will permeate the entire body, says Dr. Bieluch.
Ones Riskier Than The Other
While people can die from allergies, usually they involve allergies to certain foods , medications , or materials . Allergic rhinitis , while uncomfortable, is not fatal, Dr. Ditto says. But some of the complications of allergies, such as asthma, can be.
According to the CDC, most cases of this new coronavirus are mild, but cases can turn severe, especially if youre elderly or have other health issues like diabetes or heart disease.Other things to note:
- The incubation period of COVID-19 is two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
- Experts arent sure exactly how contagious the virus is because theres still much to learn about it. But because its a new virus that people dont have prior exposure to, it has the ability to spread widely.
- Interestingly, the number of people suffering from seasonal allergies also seem to be on the upswing, due, at least in part, say experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology , to climate change.
How Do You Know If Youre Sick Or Have Allergies
In addition to the presence of a fever, there are a number of symptoms that can help you differentiate between allergies and an illness.
Symptom time frame and tempo.For a traditional upper respiratory infection or common cold, symptoms generally increase for a few days and then resolve within a week or two, says Chen. On the other hand, if youre allergic to pollen, you will likely have symptoms throughout the season.
Response to allergy medications. If youre sneezing and have a runny nose and these symptoms get better with antihistamines, which is the most common over-the-counter allergy medication, then you likely have allergies, notes Chen.
Important note: Allergy medication, such as Benadryl, generally isnt recommended for children under 12 months of age. Before administering antihistamines or other medications, please speak with your doctor.
The presence of aches and pains.Kids with viral illness will often have aches and pains and probably will have been around someone at home or at school who was sick, as well, explains DeBlasio.
Symptoms get worse outside. Seasonal allergy symptoms are worse when an allergic child spends long periods outside, says DeBlasio. Time spent outdoors wont change the symptoms of a cold.
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When To See A Doctor For Fever
A fever is what happens when the body is fighting off the germs of an infection or illness and while, yes, it can be scary , its not always cause for a trip to the doctor. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics , children should be seen by their pediatrician if theyre younger than 12 weeks and have a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher, or have a temperature of 104 F if theyre older.
Additional reasons to call the doctor when a fever is present, according to the AAP:
The fever is present for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2.
The fever is present for more than 3 days in a child 2 or older.
A child appears very ill, drowsy or is unusually fussy.
A child has been in a very hot place, like an overheated car.
A stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, rash or continuous vomiting or diarrhea is also present.
The child has had a seizure.
The child appears to be getting worse instead of better.
There are signs of dehydration present, such as dry mouth and fewer wet diapers.
The child already has immune system problems or is taking a steroid.
And of course, nobody knows your child better than you. If something isnt sitting well with you, feel free to give their doctor a call.
How To Treat Allergies
In some cases, the best way to manage allergic reactions is to completely avoid the allergen triggering substance. But when the allergen is impossible to avoid, or allergic reactions are getting in the way of your life, our doctors offer solutions that will help you manage them.
Allergy shots help desensitize your body to allergens by exposing your body to a small amount of the allergen, slowly increasing the amount over time. Our doctors develop a treatment course to your triggering allergens, starting with weekly shots and moving to monthly over time.
Other allergy treatments our doctors prescribe include medication, inhalers, and sublingual immunotherapy tablets, a tablet form of allergy shots. For certain life-threatening allergies, our doctors prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector for you to carry with you in case of exposure to the allergen.
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Do You Have A Cold Or Allergies
It’s easy to get them confused. Just ask Paul Ehrlich, MD, a professor of pediatrics at New York University. He’d been an allergist for years when he came down with what he thought was a cold. “I’d had a watery, runny nose for several days when one of my patients took a look at me and said, ‘Oh, you have allergies, too!'” Ehrlich says.
He’d never had allergies before, but a checkup with another doctor confirmed that the patient was right. “Turns out I was allergic to birch trees, which were in bloom at the time,” he says.
A cold is an infection caused by a virus. Allergies are your immune system’s reaction to a substance like pollen or pet dander. Because the two conditions cause similar symptoms, like sniffles and stuffiness, many people get them mixed up. Knowing which is which can help you get the right treatment, and that will help you feel better faster.
When Do People Usually Get Hay Fever
You can have hay fever any time of the year. Seasonal allergies occur in the spring, summer and early fall when trees and weeds bloom and pollen counts are higher. Perennial allergies can happen year-round. They result from irritants that are always around, such as pet dander, cockroaches and dust mites.
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Can Allergies Cause Fatigue & A Low Grade Fever
Whether it is spring or fall, if you suffer from allergies, you run the risk of becoming sick. For some sufferers, allergies cause nasal congestion, headache and cough 1. For others, if their bodies react strongly enough, their symptoms may include a low-grade fever and fatigue. It is important to know how to treat your symptoms so you begin feeling healthy again.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Allergies Have Chronic Symptoms
COVID-19, like the flu or common cold, is an acute illness, meaning people feel fine until symptoms start showing up.
Allergies, on the other hand, are usually chronic, presenting with symptoms off and on for weeks, months, or even years, Dr. David M. Cutler, family medicine physician at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline.
Allergies should not cause a fever or body aches, Arthur said. Generally, no cough unless you have a lot of nasal drainage.
Conversely, itchy eyes and facial pain are more typical of allergies than a COVID-19 infection.
Allergies may also cause wheezing, she said, especially in people with asthma.
Allergy symptoms tend to vary with the environment: worsening with exposure to dust, pollen, or animal dander, whereas cold symptoms tend to persist regardless of time of day, weather, locality, or other environmental factors, Cutler said.
Also, as with COVID-19, colds are more likely to have generalized symptoms like fever, headache, and body aches, whereas allergies usually affect only the respiratory tract, Cutler said.
Allergy symptoms tend to improve with antihistamine and other allergy-specific medication, he said. Colds are more likely to respond to decongestants, acetaminophen, fluids, and rest.
The CDC issued guidance on the differences in symptoms between COVID-19 and seasonal allergies.
Your Peak Flow Can Show Early Signs Of Trouble
Your peak expiratory flow meter can alert you to problems early during flu season.Dr. Thiruchelvam says that a reduction in peak flow of greater than 20 percent from normal, or from your personal best value, indicates the presence of an asthma exacerbation. Peak flow levels often drop when you come down with the flu and even when you dont feel sick. If your peak flow level is low, talk to your healthcare provider. Together, you can discuss management before the flu slams you with symptoms.
The flu comes on suddenly, Dr. Thiruchelvam explains. You might feel fine in the morning, and by afternoon, you feel terrible. Even if you dont think youre sick, check your peak flow every day. If its low, talk to your doctor. Dont wait until you notice a problem.
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How To Tell The Difference Between Texas Cedar Fever And Covid Symptoms
“There’s definitely some overlap,” said Dr. Haley Overstreet of Aspire Allergy & Sinus. She has treated patients who thought it was just their allergies, including cedar fever last season, and it turned out to be COVID-19.
Both allergies and COVID-19 can have nasal congestion, runny nose, lack of smell and taste, and sore throat. Sneezing has been a challenge, Overstreet said, because initially everyone thought sneezing wouldn’t be part of COVID-19, but she has tested patients with severe sneezing and they have been positive for COVID-19.
What COVID-19 typically doesn’t have is itchiness. Itchy eyes, itchy throat and itchy nose are more likely to be allergies than a virus, but sometimes a scratchy throat can be a COVID-19 sign, especially in the omicron variant.
Some symptoms that typically are not allergies but could be a virus include nausea and diarrhea. High fever also is not allergies, Overstreet said.
If you’re not sure, take a COVID-19 test, especially right now because of the the number of cases of the omicron variant in the community.
Getting your allergies under control is important during times when a lot of virus is circulating in the community .
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Hay Fever Management And Treatment
Avoid triggers by making changes to your home and to your behavior.
- Keep windows closed during high pollen periods use air conditioning in your home and car.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Use mite-proof bedding covers to limit exposure to dust mites and a dehumidifier to control mold. .
- Wash your hands after petting any animal, and have a nonallergic person help with pet grooming, preferably in a well-ventilated area or outside.
What people dont realize is most of the over-the-counter medicines are designed for milder allergies. For the people who have more moderate to severe allergy problems, its very rare that over the counter medicines are enough.
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If you have trouble finding them, or if you need something stronger like corticosteroids, call your doctor. They may be able to prescribe something over the phone. Some pharmacies deliver medications.
When social distancing or stay-at-home rules are in effect, always follow the COVID-19 safety steps recommended by public health officials:
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Causes Of Allergy Symptoms
Your body responds too strongly to pollen produced by flowering plants. The pollen is the male reproductive cell of the plant. If you are not allergic, the pollen does not make you sick, but if you are allergic, your body mounts a defensive response.
Brightly colored flowers rarely produce allergy-causing pollens. The problem comes from plants that pollinate using the wind to spread each pollen cell. Large quantities of pollen can be spread on a windy day, sometimes as much as 20 miles.
The troublesome pollens come from junipers, pine trees, all grasses, several varieties of weed and many common deciduous trees those trees whose leaves mature and fall in the autumn.
- Your body responds too strongly to pollen produced by flowering plants.
- The troublesome pollens come from junipers, pine trees, all grasses, several varieties of weed and many common deciduous trees those trees whose leaves mature and fall in the autumn.
Can Pollen Allergies Cause You To Run A Fever
About 10 percent of Americans have a pollen allergy, also known as allergic rhinitis. Pollen allergies are the result of a problem your immune system has with certain airborne substances that are released by trees and flowers. Instead of allowing you to enjoy the spring and summer, your body reacts to the pollination activity during these seasons by thinking you’re under attack. When you inhale any of the pollens you’re allergic to, your immune system sends out an antibody called immunoglobulin E to neutralize the allergen. In turn, the antibody triggers a bunch of chemicals to wage the war on its behalf. You notice the symptoms of the fight, particularly those caused by the chemical histamine. The combination of these pollen allergy symptoms is often called “hay fever.”
Despite the word “fever,” hay fever is more commonly experienced through a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion and sneezing than through a fever. Hay fever got its name because the people who suffer from pollen allergies tend to feel unwell during pollination season. However, hay fever doesn’t actually involve a fever. You can tell the difference between hay fever and a cold because the mucous associated with a cold is thicker than with allergies in addition, colds are sometimes accompanied by hoarseness and fever. Plus, they go away a lot faster than allergies do.
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Can I Prevent Allergy Symptoms
If youre suffering from allergy symptoms you can try to limit your exposure to the allergens whenever possible. Some suggestions include:
- Stay away from cigarette smoke and pets
- If you have seasonal allergies, you can also keep your windows closed during the peak months when your symptoms flare-up
- If you do go outside, wear a mask to protect yourself
- Delegate allergy triggers such as mowing the grass
- Keep your home or office as clean as possible if you know dust mites are a problem
- If you have food allergies, avoid those foods
- Use over-the-counter allergy medications to help control your symptoms
- Use air conditioning in the car or home
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the indoor air dry in your house
- Select a high-efficiency filter for your HVAC unit and follow recommended maintenance to care for these units
- Clean your home with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter
There are all kinds of over-the-counter medications that you can try. They could potentially help for a time. Nonprescription medications could include:
- Antihistamines or decongestants
- Nasal sprays
- Saline or nasal irrigation
However, you cant always avoid or limit your exposure to the things that cause your allergies, such as pollen, pet dander, or mold. Over-the-counter medications may not alleviate your symptoms. Fortunately, your doctor can help with medications to alleviate your symptoms.
Fever With Allergy Symptoms
When you develop congestion, regardless of the cause, the buildup of mucus in your sinuses can be a breeding ground for bacteria. When an infection takes hold, you can be hit with a fever that can last for several days.
Congestion can be the result of sinusitis, allergies, or something more serious, such as the flu virus. Its sometimes hard to know whats causing your symptoms, because a cold or flu can mimic many of the signs of an allergy.
Discovering exactly whats causing your symptoms, even if theyre mild, is important. Once you know the cause of your symptoms, you can start an effective treatment plan. And, in the case of an allergy, you can take steps to prevent symptoms or flare-ups in the future.
The key, however, is a proper diagnosis.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Allergic Rhinitis
Hay fever symptoms can appear throughout the year. Outdoor allergies are worse in the spring, summer and early fall. In warm weather, weeds and flowers bloom, and pollen counts are higher. Indoor allergies, such as those that result from pet dander and dust mites, can get worse in winter because people spend more time indoors.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- Nasal stuffiness , sneezing and runny nose.
- Itchy nose, throat and eyes.
- Headaches, sinus pain and dark circles under the eyes.
- Increased mucus in the nose and throat.
- Fatigue and malaise .
- Sore throat from mucus dripping down the throat .
- Wheezing, coughing and trouble breathing.