Allergies or COVID-19: Local health expert details how to tell the difference

Local News

STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) – The sun is shining, the grass is green and spring is in full bloom, but with that comes pollen and other allergens.

“So the most common allergies I’ve been seeing are tree pollen and grass pollen allergies. And because of the seasons — or lack of in the Central Valley — the season tends to be longer,” said Dr. Arfa Faiz, an allergist with Sutter Medical Group.

Dr. Faiz said she starts to see patients as early as January and as late as September. 

“It’s hard to predict whether the season will be good or bad,” she explained. “The amount of pollen is not entirely predictive of the severity or the likelihood of symptoms.”

With the threat of new coronavirus variants emerging, people with allergies may wonder if what they’re experiencing is allergies or COVID-19. Dr. Faiz said while there can be some overlap in symptoms, there are general ways to tell them apart. 

“Runny nose, stuffy nose, postnasal drip, sneezing, itching, I would think more allergies,” Dr. Faiz told FOX40. “If there were other symptoms like fever and feeling tired, fatigue, a cough that’s unrelenting, I would think more along the lines of COVID.”

She recommends people with allergies continue to mask up.

“Last year for example, with the masking, patients did notice that their symptoms of allergies were better controlled. So I would guess that this year the symptoms would be better controlled with the masking,” she said.

Dr. Faiz said when in doubt, ask your doctor or get tested for COVID-19 to be sure. 

“See your primary care doctor, talk to them about your symptoms, see if they recommend seeing an allergist or treating your allergies,” she said. “The availability of COVID tests is very easy now, so getting the test if you need to at the same time may be appropriate in some cases.”

Dr. Faiz also said anyone thinking of getting any allergy shots can also be vaccinated for COVID-19 as long there’s a 48-hour gap between those shots. 

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