COVID-19 vs. Allergies - Know the Difference

Is your nasal congestion, cough, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes and fatigue symptoms of COVID-19 or seasonal allergies?

After months of listening to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on every media channel widely available, we can all probably recite the list of COVID-19 symptoms from memory with ease. Unfortunately a dilemma ensues. That being anything can feel like COVID-19 these days. Coupled with allergy season in full swing, there may be a feeling of unease for those with allergy symptoms. Allergy sufferers may find that, at first glance, an overlap with the classic symptoms of the virus. While the immune system reactions stand in stark contrast, it may be hard to differentiate the symptoms. 

Know the Difference - Allergies vs. Coronavirus

Before we dive into the symptoms of each condition, we must consider how each disease manifests.

Allergies occur when our immune system overreacts to foreign pathogens in the environment. The body mistakenly believes that the substance is harmful. In attempt to ward off the allergen "invader", our cells and organs attack and release histamines and other chemicals into the bloodstream. Those chemicals trigger allergic reactions such as inflammation, sneezing and other symptoms. While this list is not exhaustive, the most common culprits for allergies include: food, animal dander, dust, pollen, medicines and household chemicals.

Coronavirus disease, as the name implies, is a virus. Coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses that emerge from an animal source. Public health officials have hypothesized that the new virus strain originated at a live-animal market in Wuhan, China. As with most respiratory viruses, COVID-19 is transmitted by large droplets released into the air. When an infected individual coughs or sneezes, these droplets can be spread from the close contact of person-to-person. It can also be transmitted from the droplets landing on a surface, such as a doorknob, and then touching the surface. While investigations are ongoing as to whether this new disease is also spread by the airborne route, what is known is is that symptoms of coronaviruses have an incubation period in infected people of up to 14 days of exposure to the virus. 

Allergy vs. COVID-19 Symptoms

It is important to remember for those with seasonal allergies, individuals know their symptoms begin around a certain time each year and symptoms can range from mild to severe. During the springtime, seasonal allergies are triggered by tree pollen. As we move into the summer months, the real culprits are grasses and certain weeds. Autumn is ragweed season and plants that drop their pollen are very common allergens. As winter strikes, most outdoor allergens are temporarily inactive, but this also means people are spending more time indoors. Mold, dust mites, household chemicals and pet dander are typical indoor allergens. The most common allergy symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Postnasal drip/drainage
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nasal congestion
  • Ear congestion
  • Itchy and/or watery eyes
  • Diarrhea caused by a food intolerance


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 can infect anyone of any age. Those with a severe underlying medical illness like diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease, as well as older adults are more at-risk for developing severe symptoms and serious complications from the disease. Infected patients with coronavirus experience mild to severe symptoms between 2-14 days after exposure. While this list does not encompass all possible symptoms, the nine hallmark symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting


Part of the problem in tracking coronavirus and controlling the spread of COVID-19 has been the vague symptom profile of the infection. Especially the milder forms of COVID-19, which are relatively similar to symptoms of the common cold, influenza or allergies. In addition, people may be carriers of coronavirus without knowing it and do not self-isolate. Since the incubation period for the virus is 14 days, symptoms may not be evident for up to two weeks. Complicating matters more, public health reports suggest there are a number of carriers of COVID-19 who present with no symptoms at all, and again, do not self-isolate. 

Key Differences between Allergy Symptoms (Hay Fever) and COVID-19

It is clear that some symptoms of allergies and COVID-19 do overlap, such as sneezing and coughing, but there are several ways to spot the difference. 

  1. Typically, allergy symptoms do not include sore throat or achiness. 
  2. While fever is a common symptom reported in COVID-19 cases, in comparison, this is not a usual symptom of allergies. 
  3. Typically, COVID-19 does not include symptoms such as itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy throat, itchy ears
  4. If you experience sneezing, rapid and uncontrollable, but do not have fever, achiness or sore throat, this is most like caused by an allergen

Protective Measures

Following the instructions from Canada's government and health care providers are important preventative measures for coronavirus disease. Not only for you, but especially for our vulnerable populations. In Canada, this means self-isolate and quarantine if you have been infected or have been in contact with an infected person. It also includes self-monitoring by maintaining physical distance of at minimum 6 feet and wearing a cloth face covering in public. In addition, washing your hands regularly and avoiding the close contact of mass gatherings. While there is no vaccine in circulation for COVID-19, preventative actions and self-isolation can all help break the chain of transmission.

Fear of the unknown is natural. Fortunately, we have many public health resources and mechanisms to promote information sharing at our disposal if there is concern surrounding COVID-19 before you call 911. Individuals can refer to public health resources such as the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool or call TeleHealth Ontario toll-free. As well, local COVID-19 hotlines can help determine if you need further assessment for COVID-19. If you believe you have COVID-19, it is important you seek medical attention from your health care provider and get tested. If you are experiencing the onset of severe illness, infection, or respiratory disturbances and difficulty breathing call 911. Family members are also encouraged to then immediately begin self-isolating.

Allergy Support

Allergies are not something you simply have to live with. Pascoe's line of allergy remedies will help you take back control of your life and find relief.

Pascallerg® Tablets and Pascallerg® Ampoules

Homeopathic remedies to relieve symptoms of hay fever and other allergies.

  • Proven effective and well tolerated
  • Non-drowsy, non-sedating
  • Alternative to anti-histamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and allergy medications.
  • Treats many spring allergy/hay fever symptoms, as well as food allergy and pet allergy symptoms
  • Works on acute and chronic allergies
  • Effective for rhinitis and allergic rhinitis
  • Gentle acting on the body
  • Suitable for ages 1 and older


A homeopathic remedy to relieve sinus congestion and inflammation.

  • Relieves sinus congestion caused by sinusitis/chronic sinusitis/cold and flu
  • Take during a cold or flu, or when sinuses are congested or inflamed
  • Suitable for ages 1 and older

Lymphdiaral Drainage-Cream®

An award-winning homeopathic cream to relieve symptoms of swelling and inflammation.

  • Works almost immediately on contact
  • Targets the source of pain/injury to relieve symptoms of swelling and inflammation
  • Works well on back pain, sports injuries, sore muscles, skin rashes, bug bites, earaches, sinus congestion and sore throats
  • Odorless and non-greasy
  • Suitable for ages 1 and older



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