May 28, 2020

Understanding the difference between allergies and COVID-19

Madison, Wis. — With summer approaching, pollen counts, especially tree pollen and grass pollen, can be especially high, making it a tough time for allergy sufferers. It is even more difficult during a global pandemic when some allergy symptoms are similar to those associated with COVID-19.

While it can be challenging to tell the difference, there are some key things to pay attention to.

Most allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose, eyes and throat, congestion and watery eyes. Individuals tend to experience these symptoms at the same time each year.

Similar to allergy symptoms, COVID-19 symptoms can include congestion, a runny nose and coughing. But other symptoms, like fever, body aches, fatigue and shortness of breath, can be signs of an illness. If you’re experiencing symptoms, it is important to be cautious. While the symptoms can mean something other than COVID-19 – like a common cold – talking with a physician can help figure out what might be going on.

Find Allergy Relief

For those experiencing allergies, there are ways to help alleviate the symptoms, including:

  • Keep your windows closed and, if possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air 

  • Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold levels are reported to be high (the UW-Madison pollen counting station is one of three in Wisconsin that reports to the National Allergy Bureau) 

  • Wear a pollen mask if long periods of exposure are unavoidable and then shower or change clothes afterward (such as when mowing the lawn or working in the yard)

  • Avoid hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry 

  • When traveling by car, keep your windows closed 

  • Use a Neti Pot for nasal irrigation

Don't wait until your symptoms are bad to seek relief. You can use MyChart to contact your physician, or use the UW Health Care Anywhere app for a video visit anytime day or night.