Young girl sneezing from allergies

One of the activities many of us can participate in while social distancing is going outside and enjoying the beautiful spring weather. For many, spring blooms also bring on sniffles and sneezes.

Unfortunately, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms can look similar to many other conditions, including seasonal allergies.

The novel coronavirus pandemic is now coinciding with the spring allergy season. Spring allergies are caused by pollen being released into the air, causing some to have an allergic reaction. For anyone with hay fever, step outside during spring, and you might sneeze or end up with itchy eyes.

This year, many people who are allergic to trees and grasses are worried that they could have the coronavirus.

How Do I Know If It's Just Allergies?

"Take your temperature. That's probably a good first step, since coronavirus almost always includes a fever. If your temperature is normal, it is likely allergies," says allergist Anu Kewalramani, MD an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

She adds, "Also, think about whether this happens to you every year. Come March and April, do you usually have itchy eyes and a runny nose?" If so, this may just be seasonal allergies acting up.

What If It's Coronavirus Symptoms?

Coronavirus symptoms can look similar to seasonal allergies, but often include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. A subset of patients may complain of not being able to taste or smell, or experience diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. If you don't have any of these symptoms, it might just be seasonal allergies.

Over-the-Counter Allergy Medicines

People with seasonal allergies often respond well to over-the-counter allergy antihistamines. These medicines may provide some quick relief.

If they don't, call your health care provider to discuss your symptoms. You can also use MyPortfolio to contact your UMMS health care provider.

Better Safe Than Sorry

At the end of the day, if you are unsure about your symptoms, then you should err on the side of caution.

If you aren't feeling well, stay indoors and contact your health care provider. This is the best way to ensure that you aren't contributing to the spread of coronavirus. You may also call the UMMS Nurse Call Line to discuss your symptoms. Only people with symptoms can get a doctor's order to get tested for coronavirus.

Even if you don't have symptoms or your doctor confirms that you have allergies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a homemade mask to slow the spread of the disease.