Allergies or Covid? Key symptom differences between hay fever and coronavirus

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The UK has added nine new symptoms of coronavirus to the official list, with many of these similar to symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as hay fever. From a stuffy nose to a sore throat, it might be easy to confuse symptoms of allergies for the virus. So, how can you tell the difference?

Though some of the symptoms are similar, COVID-19 has more symptoms that differ from allergies.

Previously, the NHS determined symptoms of coronavirus as:

  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature);
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours;
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

However, since the recent update, there are nine additional common symptoms of COVID-19, including:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

The NHS notes: “The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.”

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Though Covid and seasonal allergies share some symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose, there are also plenty of symptoms which differ.

According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever include:

  • sneezing and coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • loss of smell
  • pain around your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

Experts from MayoClinic advised comparing your symptoms to the official lists.

MayoClinic explained: “Unlike COVID-19, seasonal allergies aren’t caused by a virus. Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens.

“While COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, seasonal allergies don’t usually cause these symptoms unless you have a respiratory condition such as asthma that can be triggered by pollen exposure.”

One of the best ways to confirm you do not have coronavirus is by taking a lateral flow or PCR test.

However, these are no longer free on the NHS, unless you fall into a specific category.

Lateral flow tests can be purchased in some pharmacies and supermarkets.

Lloyds Pharmacy, for example, is selling single tests for £1.89 or a pack of five for £9.29.

Tesco Pharmacy has also confirmed it will be selling lateral flow test kits in 1,500 stores across the UK, with prices starting at £2.

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