Hay fever or COVID-19: How do the symptoms differ?

When the pollen season starts in the spring, many people with hay fever develop symptoms. There are clear differences between the typical symptoms of hay fever and those caused by a coronavirus (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 are a cough and fever.

The following table shows the differences:

Grafik: Illustration: The main differences between COVID-19, a cold, the flu and hay fever

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 . But hay fever can also cause allergic 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 at the same time. If you have an unusual cough and fever as well as symptoms, it’s likely that you have a respiratory (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 .

Brozek JL, Bousquet J, Agache I, Agarwal A, Bachert C, Bosnic-Anticevich S et al. Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) guidelines - 2016 revision. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2017; 140(4): 950-958.

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.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on April 23, 2020
Next planned update: 2023


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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