Is It Allergies or COVID? Part 1

2020 has been a year of trials. A year of changes and definitely the year of the VIRUS. We all know which virus I speak of, so I won’t name it. Because it's gotten a lot of attention this year. But as we roll into fall where the temperatures start changing, bringing a lot of health issues for many.

Fall brings good things but it also brings the persistent runny nose, itchy throat, and other symptoms of allergies for many. It also is the time of year when we start seeing more people getting colds and even the flu. Sadly, this year has also brought COVID into the mix. Which is so very dangerous for those of us with lupus due to the state of our immune systems.

The big question for many is how we are able to distinguish if their symptoms are just allergies or something more serious like the dreaded COVID-19?

Let’s take a good look at the signs and symptoms of everything from allergies to COVID.


Fall is here. While I like it for the changing leaves and football, I hate it because of seasonal allergies. You may find yourself with a runny nose and itchy eyes as the temperatures start to change. While it’s possible it could be more, it could also just be allergies. So let’s take a look at what symptoms allergies will cause.

Symptoms of allergies

  • Itchy eyes, nose, sinuses, ear canals, and throat.
  • Fatigue (only sometimes)
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Headache (sometimes)
  • Shortness of breath

Allergy treatment

  • OTC medications like decongestants or antihistamines can reduce the congestion, itching and sneezing.
  • Nasal spray. Some may find relief with nasal sprays as they may help decongest or ease inflammation in your sinuses.
  • Eye drops may be helpful by relieving the itchy, watery eyes.

According to research, ragweed, pollen, mold and dust mites are the most common causes of allergies in the fall. In early August, ragweed will release its pollen causing many people to start experiencing allergy symptoms. This can continue through early October. Mold spores often grow this time of year and will become even more common as the trees lose their leaves.1

What is the common cold?

When you have a cold you may feel pretty miserable, but the symptoms are often mild compared to the more aggressive viruses like the flu or COVID. A cold cause the following symptoms.2

Cold symptoms

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough (mild)
  • Fatigue (sometimes)
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches (rarely)
  • Minor aches and pains

Cold treatments

Most OTC cold medications will have, at their best, a moderate impact on symptoms of a cold. Things like Tylenol, ibuprofen cold medicine, etc.

For most, the typical cold will last an average of 7-10 days, according to the Mayo Clinic. Interestingly enough, most of the symptoms we deal with are actually not caused by the infection. They are actually caused by our body's immune system trying to kick those germs out. For most, the cold virus will go away if we just give our bodies the time it needs to fight them. Our immune system is truly our greatest defense against the common cold. But as we all know, having lupus messes with our immune system by itself. So fighting a cold may be more difficult for us than for the average person.

Is it allergies or a cold?

Probably the biggest telltale sign is if you know you have the same symptoms every year. Many with fall allergies know the approximate timing of when their allergies set in. As well as if you are experiencing body aches. Allergies can make you feel awful but will not cause body aches.

Another big distinguishing factor is your mucus. While gross, the color and texture of your mucus can help determine between the two. When you are dealing with allergies your mucus is most likely clear, thin, and watery. If you have a cold, your mucus will often be thicker, yellow, or green.

Now that we have a better handle on what distinguishes allergies and the common cold. Stay tuned for part two as we look at ways we can distinguish influenza from COVID.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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