Seasonal Allergies or COVID-19? Know the Difference!


We are all concerned that any symptoms related to our sinuses or nose or throat might be the start of Covid-19. It’s scary. Even though I am a sinus and allergy specialist, I have had the same fear as everyone else. So, which one is it? 

The most common sinus symptoms are sinus pressure, stuffy nose, headache, pressure behind the eyes, postnasal drip or thick nasal discharge, smell alteration or loss of smell. Fever is typically lacking in chronic sinus infection. However, chronic sinus symptoms are typically not associated with fever or shortness of breath. The nasal discharge may be yellow or greenish in color. 

In Covid-19, on the other hand, the more common symptoms are fever, cough, malaise, fatigue, shortness of breath, possible diarrhea or stomach upset, possible headache, skin rash in children or sore throat. Loss of smell is an early sign of Covid-19 and may precede other symptoms but can be present in chronic sinusitis. Symptoms typically get worse after a week of Covid-19 and generally these symptoms do not improve with antihistamines or nasal steroids.

Covid-19 is associated with a dry cough. The triad of fever, cough and shortness of breath is concerning for Covid-19. Shortness of breath may be associated with low oxygen in the blood and a pulse oximetry may show levels less than 93%. This is never seen in sinusitis. Testing and treatment is highly recommended if shortness of breath is associated with a pulse oximetry reading of less than 93%.

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