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Spring brings a renewed question: Is it allergies or COVID-19?

Jessica Cain / WRVO
Jessica Cain / WRVO

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - From trees and grass in May to ragweed in August, allergens will be widespread the next few months in central New York.

But how can allergy sufferers know whether symptoms should send them reaching for a box of tissues or a box of home COVID-19 tests?

Dr. Michael Sheehan, a board certified specialist in allergy and clinical immunology at Asthma, Allergy, Rheumatology Associates, PC, said there are a few things patients can consider.

While some symptoms like sinus or upper respiratory issues can be the same with allergies and COVID-19, there are also some distinct differences.

"Patients with COVID, the vast majority of them will develop fevers sometime in their course,” said Sheehan. “Likewise, systemic symptoms, muscle aches, joint ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, these would be very unusual for respiratory allergy and much more typical for COVID."

Sheehan said with allergies, any fatigue should parallel any allergy symptoms. If someone has minor allergy symptoms and extreme fatigue, something else may be going on. And if people lose their sense of smell, consider how it occurs.

"The loss of smell in COVID is sudden and without nasal symptoms, whereas opposed to the loss of smell in allergy is virtually always associated with nasal symptoms,” said Sheehan.

The length of symptoms also tends to be different.

"Covid lasts two weeks in the vast majority of people, although there’s a subset of patients who might be a little more protracted. Allergies can last for months, but generally most people with COVID get over it in a couple of weeks,” said Sheehan.

However, Sheehan said when it comes to COVID-19, when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to take a test, especially if you have vulnerable people in your life.