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Coughing and sneezing? Here's how to tell if it's COVID-19 or allergies

Allergies or COVID-19
Tree pollen counts are high in Northeast Ohio right now, according to The Weather Channel.

It's spring allergy season in Northeast Ohio, and pollen counts are high right now. Those allergic to trees are feeling it the worst, as tree pollen counts are high to very high, according to The Weather Channel. Grass pollen is also fairly high.

The symptoms can look a lot like those of the newer omicron BA.2 variant sweeping across the country.

Fatigue, headaches, cough, sore throat, and runny nose are symptoms of both allergies and COVID-19, according to Dr. Samuel Friedlander, an allergist at University Hospitals and The Weather Channel.

There are some differences between the two, he said.

“There are some things that point toward infections, for instance, fever is certainly more likely to occur in infection like COVID, rather than allergies," Dr. Friedlander said.

Itchy, watery eyes are also a sign that what you are dealing with is caused by allergies and probably not COVID.

COVID vs allergies.JPG
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This graph shows which symptoms are the same for both COVID-19 and seasonal allergies.

One symptom in particular usually means you have COVID-19, said Dr. Christine Alexander, family medicine specialist at MetroHealth.

“If you have a loss of taste or loss of smell, that’s still much more common with COVID than it is with anything else," Dr. Alexander said.

When in doubt, take an at-home COVID-19 test so you don’t risk spreading viruses to others. Alexander said.

For some, allergies may only get worse. Grass pollen season is typically late spring into the summer months.

Spring is prime tree allergy season in Northeast Ohio, according to clinical allergist Dr. Shan Shan Wu.

“Anytime from March to May is tree season in Northeast Ohio,” she said. “We can find a little bit of the grass pollen appearing as well, and as we head to June and July, that’s grass season, tree season is gone.”