Is it seasonal allergies or COVID-19?

As we head into allergy season, many are wondering if their coughs and runny noses are just allergies or the coronavirus.

As a result, many allergy doctors say they are getting a lot of the same questions.

You wouldn’t think that with a blanket of snow on the ground we’d be talking about allergies, but last week tree pollens were already starting to rise, and it leads to a lot of symptoms that may make people wonder if they’ve caught the virus.

But, there are some key differences.

Most pollen starting to emerge into the air will attack a different part of the body than the virus, and Dr. John Sweet with Hennepin Healthcare says that should be a big clue.

“Mainly, with allergies, you’re going to be having upper respiratory system - your eyes, your nose, your sinuses, as such - verses the COVID-19, we tend to think of it as a lower respiratory tract infection… of the lungs causing chest tightness and cough and shortness of breath.”

The CDC says shortness of breath along with a cough are two key symptoms of COVID-19. But, the third major symptom is a fever. If you’re running a fever, you don’t have an allergy.

However, Dr. Sweet says elevated pollen can cause shortness of breath and coughing in people who suffer from allergic asthma. So, they need to be especially careful.

“We know this: people with asthma that is poorly controlled are more risk for more severe infection from COVID-19. So, we’re advising all of asthma patients to stay on their allergy and asthma medications to keep themselves healthy and their asthma under control,” he said.

Doctors say to start your allergy medications early in the season rather than waiting for your symptoms to worsen.