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Here's What "Allergies Feel Like Now," Say Physicians

Allergies or COVID-19? Here’s what the experts say.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

With COVID-19 (understandably) dominating medical focus over the last two years, it's easy to forget about health issues such as seasonal allergies. With so many of the symptoms overlapping, confusion is to be expected: "In today's world, with every sneeze, cough or tickle in the throat, many people wonder: Do I have COVID-19? For the millions of allergy sufferers around the country, this question becomes a little more complex — allergies or COVID-19, or perhaps a cold or the flu?" says Sara Narayan, MD, Allergy and Immunology Specialist. Here are what allergies feel like now, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Nose Tickling

Sick woman blowing nose on her sofa.

With pollen season starting earlier than usual this year, it's likely that annoying nose tickle you're experiencing is due to allergies. "We get that question quite frequently—'Are these symptoms allergies or are they COVID?'" says Dr. Shyam Joshi, medical director of allergy and immunology at Oregon Health & Science University. "Sometimes it's hard to tell but generally if we're seeing a lot more itchy watery eyes, sneezing, itchy nose, we're thinking most likely it's going to be allergies."


Itchy Throat

Young woman with a throat pain walking to the street.

Experiencing an itchy throat is far more common with allergies than with COVID-19, and usually doesn't indicate serious illness. "Allergies cause itchiness: itchy eyes, itchy nose and sneezing, and a tickle in the throat," says Dr. Subhadra Siegel, director of the Allergy and Immunology Program at Boston Children's Health Physicians.


Watery Eyes

Stressed businesswoman rubbing her eyes in the office.

Watery, itchy eyes are rare in COVID-19 but fairly common with seasonal allergies. "One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between allergy and coronavirus symptoms is to check your eyes. If they are red, watery and itchy, these are probably signs of allergies. Coronavirus symptoms generally do not cause those uncomfortable itchy, watery eyes," according to Beeve Vision Care Center.

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Do You Have a Temperature?

woman is looking at the thermometer. She has fever

If you don't have a fever, you are probably dealing with allergies rather than COVID-19. "Take your temperature. That's probably a good first step, since coronavirus almost always includes a fever," says allergist Anu Kewalramani, MD., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "If your temperature is normal, it is likely allergies. Also, think about whether this happens to you every year. Come March and April, do you usually have itchy eyes and a runny nose?"

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Sneezing and Congestion

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Sneezing is a common symptom of seasonal allergies, but is also strongly correlated with the Omicron variant. "It can be a tricky question," says Christie Barnes, MD, Nebraska Medicine otolaryngologist. "The key is to determine whether you are having additional symptoms on top of your normal allergy symptoms. While allergy sufferers may have difficulty breathing due to congestion, allergy sufferers without asthma typically won't have shortness of breath, nor will they have a fever. They also usually experience facial pressure rather than a headache."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.


Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan