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Physicians Struggle to Tell the Difference Between Allergies and COVID-19 Symptoms


DES MOINES, Iowa — Fall allergy season has started and local physicians are finding it difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms.

According to the CDC, the two have shared symptoms such as runny nose, headaches, shortness of breath, cough and a sore throat. However, there is one symptom that is a telltale sign of allergies. 

“Allergy symptoms in general are really itchy and watery eyes, and sneezing. Those are really the main symptoms that set it apart from COVID,” said Dr. Jeff Brock, a pharmacy specialist in infectious diseases at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center.

The CDC also said a fever and loss of taste and smell are more common COVID-19 symptoms.

The president of Iowa Allergy, Dr. Vuong Nayima, said it is possible for people to experience the coronavirus and allergies at the same time. 

“If they have more atypical mild symptoms, there’s really no way to know, there just isn’t,” Dr. Nayima said. “You treat the allergies and you wait for it to go away. But by the time you get everything treated and the allergies go away, the COVID will probably be gone.” 

There is currently no scientific evidence to know whether seasonal allergies cause a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center said it is currently preparing for an increase in COVID-19 testing. Dr. Brock said testing is the primary way to tell the difference between allergies, COVID-19 and influenza. 

“Often clinically just taking the patient’s symptoms and their temperatures, it’s really impossible to differentiate between the two, so it is going to be a tough season. We’ll just have to test these patients,” Dr. Brock said. 

Dr. Nayima said wearing a mask has proven to help prevent experiencing severe allergies and catching the coronavirus. 

“That’s usually one of our recommendations for people who have severe allergies. Avoid going outside if you can, but if you do, wear a mask because the mask filters some of the pollen just like virus particles,” Dr. Nayima said.


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