COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured Wellness

Allergies or COVID-19?

A woman blowing her nose in a napkin.
Written by Monica Matys

It’s no surprise that warmer spring weather can trigger allergy symptoms. But how can you be sure the symptoms you’re experiencing aren’t related to COVID-19? Sunnybrook experts offer some guidance on what to watch for, and what to do.

With temperatures finally warming up, and many trees and flowers blooming, pollen counts are now on the rise. Allergy specialist Dr. Karen Binkley says, if you typically take medication for your allergies, you might want to consider starting them earlier to ward off potential symptoms and concerns.

Allergy sufferers can usually pinpoint the time of year that their symptoms flare up, which can include:

  • itchy, watery or red eyes
  • sneezing
  • runny nose and/or nasal congestion

While COVID-19 can also cause these symptoms, Sunnybrook’s director of Infection Prevention and Control Natasha Salt says, infection usually includes one or more of the following:

  • fever that is typically high and ongoing
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • confusion
  • loss of smell or taste
  • diarrhea or nausea

While not a guarantee, itchiness can be a main differentiating factor between environmental allergies and COVID-19. Dr. Binkley says when it comes to itchiness, mucous membranes are most commonly affected, meaning sufferers will usually feel this in their eyes and nose.

In addition to taking your regular medication as prescribed, Dr. Binkley says there are others steps you can take to minimize allergy symptoms. Try changing your clothes after being outside, keep windows closed and cut down on the amount of time you spend in the garden during seasons that trigger your symptoms.

In this current environment, it’s important to be aware and forthcoming about how you are feeling. Salt says if you are worried about any symptoms you are experiencing, phone your doctor or local public health unit to discuss next steps.

Ontario residents — if you suspect you may have COVID-19:

The Ontario Government recommends anybody with symptoms of COVID-19, or anybody who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus, visit an assessment centre to get tested.

» View more information, including a list of COVID-19 assessment centres in Ontario

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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