As we enter our third spring with COVID-19 still among us, many are wondering if those sniffles that are starting again are the cause of allergies or if it could be something else.
So how can you decipher which one is allergies and which one is COVID? In NBC10 Boston's weekly "COVID Q&A" series, top Boston doctors explained that it could be difficult to tell.
Brigham and Women's Hospital's Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes said identifying which one is it has gotten easier due to testing, but there are still no definitive answers without the test.
"This is the third spring of coronavirus and the answer is pretty much the same, although a little easier this time, you really can't tell for sure," said Kuritzkes. "Many people will be tuned to what their typical allergy symptoms are and to the extent that allergies typically involve a stuffy nose but without fever, headache, sore throat, and all that it is less likely to be coronavirus, but you can't be certain. The good news is that this year we have reasonably widely available rapid home tests so I think the safest thing would be for people to test. "
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Dr. Shira Doron, a hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center agreed. She said that it is very important for people to test to be sure if it is allergies or the virus.
"Maybe there will be a day in a few years when there's enough immunity in the population that we can say 'it's probably allergies, no need to test' but today is not the day," said Doron. "Right now, that is a good approach: visit a testing site or use an antigen test at home but know that especially amongst the vaccinated, your immune system might be controlling that viral load and you may need to test again a day or two later to be more confident that you don't have COVID."
As the pollen starts to spread again, it is important to note that allergy symptoms include stuffy, runny nose, itchy eyes, itchy ears, and excessive sneezing.
"I am not ready to tell people with new onset of respiratory symptoms that they don't need a test. You get a test when symptoms are nuanced and if you don't have COVID then you don't need to keep testing if the (symptoms) don't change," explained Doron.