Early COVID-19 or allergy symptoms? Local doctors explain how to tell the difference

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You might just have allergies.

supriya mannepalli md 4.width 500 - Early COVID-19 or allergy symptoms? Local doctors explain how to tell the difference
Dr. Supriya Mannepalli.

Telling the difference between allergy and coronavirus symptoms can prove tricky, especially when they overlap.

Dr. Supriya Mannepalli, medical director for Northeast Georgia Physician Groups Infectious Disease, told The Times that both COVID-19 and allergies can cause runny nose, scratchy throat and headaches. For those who also have asthma, Mannepalli said they could experience more cough and shortness of breath during allergy season.

Despite the coinciding symptoms, Mannepalli and Dr. Ronald Beebe of Gainesville’s Breathe Better Allergy and Asthma & Sinus Center, said the distinguishing difference between COVID-19 and those with allergies is the presence of fever.

“Almost all COVID-19 patients have fevers and almost no allergy patients have fevers,” Beebe said.

Mannepalli said a patient with COVID-19 would be expected to have a cough, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue and body aches.

“These patients feel more sick and run down than patients experiencing most typical allergy flares,” she said. “Additionally, patients suffering from seasonal allergies generally have some relief if they are able to avoid their specific allergy trigger or following a good rain because of decreased pollen counts.”

Beebe said the type of cough people have can also help decipher between COVID-19 and allergies. A dry cough aligns with COVID-19; whereas, a wet cough, which includes mucus and congestion, results from allergies. 

“With a dry cough, you don’t feel as congested, and there’s a tightness in your chest,” Beebe said. “There’s sometimes a tickle.”

Beebe advises those with asthma to monitor their symptoms closely because viruses can trigger asthma attacks. If someone suspects they may have COVID-19 or are having trouble interpreting their symptoms, he asks them to call before entering a clinic.

“Everybody is on edge these days,” Beebe said. “Please call your doctor and tell them your symptoms. It doesn’t have to be an allergist. A primary care doctor should be able to give good advice if they think it’s the virus or allergies.”

Dr. Kimberley Shanks of NGPG Allergy & Asthma encourages patients with seasonal allergies to follow the regimen recommended by their physician. 

“​However, patients should contact their physician for further direction if they are feeling more sick than typical, are experiencing different symptoms – especially fever – or are finding their medications are not effective,” Shanks said.



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