Scratchy Throat: Allergies or COVID?

Scratchy Throat: Allergies or COVID?

If you experience a scratchy throat before the pandemic, you likely attributed it to allergies and it wasn’t much cause for concern. But with COVID now part of daily life, symptoms can be tough to identify. What you thought was allergies may be confused for COVID, causing additional stress and confusion. Understanding how allergies and COVID are different can help you readily identify what you are experiencing. There are key differences that are useful to know about, especially if you do experience allergies. 

Understanding Allergies

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimate that over 60 million people experience allergies. Allergies are a response that the body’s immune system produces. It is triggered by an allergen that one comes into contact with – an allergen is a substance that is typically harmless but the body perceives as a threat. To prevent the allergen from harming the body, the immune system activates its line of defense. This includes releasing chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream which target and neutralize the allergen. This overaction to an allergen produces the symptoms we commonly associate with allergies, including: 

  • Scratchy throat 
  • Itchy and/or watery eyes
  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Congestion, stuffy nose 
  • Coughing 

Common allergens that cause allergies are: pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold. The immune system can come into contact with these allergenes through them being inhaled, ingested, touched etc. Most people who experience allergies are aware of what their triggers are and the symptoms they cause. But with COVID, even people who experience allergies may confuse symptoms with the virus. 

Identifying COVID Symptoms

COVID is a respiratory infection that is caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This infectious disease is caught through droplets or particles that are in the air (released by a person with COVID). Symptoms can include the following: 

  • Cough, scratchy throat
  • Fever, chills
  • Congestion, runny nose 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Sore throat 
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness 
  • Nausea, vomiting 

These symptoms can be experienced mildly to more severely, leading to hospitalization for some. It is important to be aware of COVID so that you can quarante if you experience symptoms, preventing you from spreading it to others. 

Scratch Throat:  Allergies or COVID?

It is true that allergies and COVID share a few symptoms including: scratchy throat, cough, and fatigue. But there are key differences that can help you tell them apart. Main differences between COVID and allergies are: 

  • Cough: while a cough can be experienced by allergies and COVID, the type of cough is different. COVID produces a cough that is more dry whereas allergies involve a cough that is more wet.
  • Fever: allergies typically do not involve experiencing  fever. In contrast, a fever is a common symptom for COVID. 
  • Smell & taste: loss of taste and smell is not symptomatic of allergies whereas it can be a symptom of COVID (though much more common earlier in the pandemic). 
  • Shortness of breath: breathing challenges is a common symptom of COVID and it is not with allergies. Breathing issues are only experienced with allergies if people have a respiratory issue like asthma. 

If you take antihistamines or decongestants, common over the counter medications that people with allergies use, and your symptoms are alleviated; this also signals you are experiencing allergies. Nonetheless, it is important to always take a COVID test if you are unsure about the symptoms you are experiencing. 

Preventative Measures

There are a number of safety measures you can practice to help prevent COVID as well as minimize your experience of allergies. A few strategies include: 

  • Wear a mask: this is a great way to reduce your risk of inhaling allergens as well as particles that cause COVID. 
  • Reducing risk of COVID: stay up to date with vaccines and boosters, wash your hands regularly, maintain social distancing, and clean high touch surfaces often.  
  • Minimizing allergies: reduce your exposure to allergens by avoiding the outdoors during peak pollen hours, taking over the counter medications in advance, regularly cleaning spaces etc.  

Integrating these safety measures in everyday life can reduce your risk of contracting COVID and minimize the impact of allergies. Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your health and wellness.