Baylor College of Medicine allergist explains difference between allergies, coronavirus

The COVID-19 outbreak is overlapping with allergy season, making it difficult for people to determine if they're getting sick or just experiencing seasonal allergies. Dr. Sanjiv Sur, an allergist at Baylor College of Medicine, said one of the key differences between the two is that allergies tend to present the same symptoms every year. 

"If there is a significant change in your allergy symptoms from what you have had in the past, then you should consider being evaluated by a physician," Sur said. 

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Since allergies can sometimes make people feel as though they're getting sick, Sur says the differences between the symptoms are:  

  • Allergies mainly cause itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, congestion and sneezing
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include a dry cough, fever and difficulty breathing

Sur says a major difference between allergies and coronavirus is the presence of fever, a main symptom of coronavirus but not a feature in seasonal allergies. 

Baylor College of Medicine says allergies are mainly caused by the high tree and grass pollen count that occurs during springtime. Anyone experiencing seasonal allergies is advised to begin treating symptoms by using over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays or non-drowsy oral antihistamines like cetirizine or fexofenadine.  

If allergy symptoms are not relieved by the next day or two, Sur recommends informing your primary care provider over the phone or electronically.


Shortness of breath is a symptom of both allergies and COVID-19 that can overlap, especially if someone has asthma. Sur said allergies can trigger asthma flares and sometimes COPD flares if the COPD is associated with asthma. Sur recommends that anyone having difficulty breathing and not experiencing allergy symptoms contact their primary care provider for an evaluation. 

If there is a chance you have been exposed to COVID-19 or begin experiencing a cough, fever or shortness of breath, Baylor College of Medicine says to contact your healthcare provider over the phone or electronically for suggestions on testing. 

Baylor College of Medicine's Coronavirus Preparedness site has more COVID-19 health tips. 



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