Allergies vs. Coronavirus: How to Tell the Difference | BRIO

We break down what you need to know about the difference between allergies and coronavirus. Symptoms may be similar and knowing when to keep workers on duty and when to get them tested is crucial. Learn about allergies vs coronavirus and how to tell the difference.

Coronavirus, the flu, colds and allergies all have similar symptoms. While it used to be common practice to put on a brave face and head to work anyway, COVID-19 has changed that mentality. Instead, we have to wave the caution flag and make responsible choices about whether to go to work or stay home and get tested. And employers are working to better understand allergy symptoms vs. coronavirus to craft workplace and testing policies that are fair and equitable. 

But allergies are a challenging topic because they can last for days, weeks and even months. Employers could offer regular COVID testing for employees with allergy symptoms to continue to rule out a COVID infection. Still, it’s also beneficial to understand the difference between coronavirus and allergies. 

Allergy Symptoms vs. Coronavirus

Allergy symptoms are typically seasonal, although they can occur year-round. Allergies are an immune system response that can range from mild to severe. They have a variety of triggers unique to each individual. Some people discover they have been allergic to their medications or foods; others have reactions to environmental factors, such as pollen, dander, dust and mold. Allergies are not contagious. 

Most allergy sufferers have to manage symptoms because there are no known cures for allergies. Some of the most common allergy symptoms include: 

  • Congestion
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue, usually mild
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy nose or ears
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose

Meanwhile, some of the most common coronavirus symptoms include: 

  • Body aches
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue, typically severe
  • Fever
  • Loss of smell
  • Shortness of breath

Screening for Allergies vs. Coronavirus

Some employers choose to screen all workers before allowing them to enter the workplace. Others ask employees to self-report when they are feeling under the weather. Once symptoms are reported, several follow-up questions can help determine whether someone can continue working, self-isolating or should get tested. 

Do they have a history of allergies?

Is this something they cope with on a seasonal basis? Do they know the potential trigger or do they recognize this set of symptoms as their typical allergic reaction? Referring to a calendar of common seasonal allergy triggers can be helpful. Just remember that flare-ups can occur outside of typical bloom calendars, depending on the weather, region and other factors. Allergies tend to have long-lasting symptoms, while a virus will have an apparent onset of infection and tends to run a reliable course. 

Are you experiencing any unique symptoms?

Itchiness is a unique symptom of allergies because it represents an immune response to an environmental trigger. Itchiness is not a symptom of COVID. Similarly, a fever is an indication the person has the flu, a cold, coronavirus or some other form of infection. However, a fever is not a symptom of allergies. 

What’s the symptom overlap?

Sometimes, people with asthma who also suffer from allergies will experience shortness of breath, chest discomfort and wheezing. While shortness of breath is a symptom of coronavirus, wheezing is specific to asthma. That said, anyone experiencing respiratory issues should take precautions, take a COVID test and contact their healthcare provider.

When to Test for COVID

While allergies often look and feel like the common cold, they aren’t contagious. As a result, allergy sufferers, miserable as their situation may be, often head to work to push through the discomfort. Post-pandemic workplaces are re-evaluating these policies. And the best way to determine a case of allergies from coronavirus is with COVID testing. If your employees are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID, it’s best to suggest testing before they can return to work. BRIO can help, testing employees quickly and delivering results via a convenient dashboard that respects privacy and HIPAA compliance measures.

Ultimately, we are still discovering the effects of the coronavirus. Most governments, scientists and employers are bracing for the possibility that variants may become as common as the flu and lead to more gray areas around what’s simply allergies versus a COVID infection. Testing policies can help you cope with seasonal variants and protect your workforce. 


WebMD - Can Allergies Be Cured?

Insider - When is Allergy Season?