Coronavirus 6 min read

Coronavirus symptoms vs. allergies: Fever is the difference

Share on

There couldn’t be a worse time for a global pandemic to occur than during allergy season. While there’s never a good time for widespread illness to strike, having it coincide with a time of year that commonly triggers similar symptoms adds an extra layer of unnecessary panic in many people. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to determine whether the drowsiness you feel or the cough you’ve been fighting is, in fact, the coronavirus, or if it’s simply a result of seasonal allergies.

If your eyes are red, itchy and watery, it’s likely you’re dealing with something less severe than COVID-19, such as a cold or seasonal allergies. The coronavirus concentrates in your respiratory system and does not cause watery eyes.

What sets allergies and the coronavirus apart is a fever. Allergies rarely, if ever, produce a fever, whereas many patients who believe they have the coronavirus must have a fever to even be tested for it. 

Dr. Gary Steven, a board of regents member for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told the AARP website that being mindful and keeping track of what causes/worsens your symptoms is key. 

“If you’re fine when you’re indoors and the windows are closed, but then you go out on a dry, windy day and start sneezing your head off, yes, that’s an allergy,” Steven says.

Classic symptoms of the coronavirus, as stated by The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, are a dry cough, fever, exhaustion and shortness of breath.

Lesser-known coronavirus symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Body aches and pains
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Diarrhea or nausea

In an interview with the Jefferson Health website, Dr. John Cohn, a professor of allergy and immunology at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, explains that similar symptoms can often cause confusion in self-diagnosis.

“Many of the early symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses and allergies, which can make it difficult to tell early coronavirus symptoms from typical allergies, especially this time of year [spring],” Cohn said. 

“Making the correct diagnosis is a particular problem since those infected vary so greatly in the severity of their illness,” he added.

For those who suffer from allergies, there is good news: Not only is there no overlap in allergy and coronavirus symptoms, the European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology says that having allergies does not affect one’s ability to contract the coronavirus. 

How coronavirus affects your eyes

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has said that it is possible for the coronavirus to produce conjunctivitis. However, the group says the eye infection only shows up in 1% to 3% of COVID-19 patients. 

There are a number of things that can cause conjunctivitis, including:

  • Swelling of the eyelids or the conjunctiva — the thin layer that covers the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelid.
  • The whites of the eyes appear pink or red.
  • Increased tear production or discharge.
  • Crusting of eyelids or eyelashes, particularly in the morning.
  • Itching, irritation or burning.

In cases in which conjunctivitis is an early symptom of the coronavirus, the condition typically begins in one eye and travels to the other eye within a few days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It’s also said that COVID-19-related eye discharge typically has a watery consistency. 

How allergies affect your eyes

Here is where things may get a little tricky. According to the CDC, allergies also are capable of causing conjunctivitis. However, allergic conjunctivitis symptoms differ somewhat from viral conjunctivitis symptoms. 

Allergic conjunctivitis typically affects both eyes concurrently and can cause them to itch, swell and tear up. It’s also common for thicker eye discharge to be present in conjunctivitis cases that are not related to coronavirus.

Conjunctivitis is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam that can include:

  • Review of your symptoms.
  • Measurements to determine any eyesight damage.
  • Evaluation of your conjunctiva and external eye tissue.
  • Evaluation of the inner part of your eyes.

When you should see a doctor

During this time of uncertainty, note any noticeable changes in your health and your eyes. Knowing the differences between symptoms for allergies and coronavirus is a good start. 

If you struggle with allergies or you exhibit symptoms of coronavirus, call your optician or your doctor. 

And, of course, be vigilant about taking the steps necessary to stay healthy and avoid coronavirus. Wash your hands, stay at home, maintain your social distance when outside, and try to relax as we wait out the rest of the coronavirus storm.

By Autumn Sprabary

Related articles