Hay fever or COVID-19: How do the symptoms differ?
When the pollen season starts in the spring, many people with hay fever develop allergy symptoms. There are clear differences between the typical symptoms of hay fever and those caused by a coronavirus infection (COVID-19). But both conditions can also have similar symptoms.
The biggest difference: The main symptoms of hay fever are sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. The most typical symptoms of a coronavirus infection are a cough and fever.
The following table shows the differences:
What can I do if I’m not sure?
You should first ask yourself how typical the symptoms seem: Are they different from those you usually have during the pollen season? Symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes are very likely to be caused by an allergy. But hay fever can also cause allergic asthma symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, which are associated with COVID-19 too.
It’s also possible to have both hay fever and a coronavirus infection at the same time. If you have an unusual cough and fever as well as allergy symptoms, it’s likely that you have a respiratory infection (too).
If you’re still not sure, it’s a good idea to find out whether it would make sense to be tested for COVID-19.
Note: Rapid tests for coronavirus antibodies that you can buy at a pharmacy can’t tell for sure whether or not you have an acute coronavirus infection.
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Greiner AN, Hellings PW, Rotiroti G, Scadding GK. Allergic rhinitis. Lancet 2011; 378(9809): 2112-2122.
Guo L, Ren L, Yang S, Xiao M, Chang, Yang F et al. Profiling Early Humoral Response to Diagnose Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Clin Infect Dis 2020.
Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV): www.116117.de. Aktuelle Hinweise zum Coronavirus.
Robert Koch-Institut. COVID-19 (Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2).
Robert Koch-Institut. Influenza.
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