My mother-in-law's nose is running like a firehose, she's got a scratchy throat that's working hard to take her voice away, and she can't stop sneezing. She's had her COVID-19 vaccinations, but did they work?

Lots of people in the Rockford area and throughout the Midwest have apparently been asking the same question. No, not about my mother-in-law, but whether or not the symptoms that I just described means they're getting pounded by pollen or showing signs of having COVID-19.

The problem is that seasonal allergies and COVID-19 symptoms are so much alike, it's hard to tell them apart. Doctor's offices are getting high volumes of calls asking how to tell the difference between the two, and whether or not the vaccine they received is doing its job.

MayoClinic.org points out that one big difference between the two is that seasonal allergies are not caused by a virus, unlike COVID-19. Seasonal allergies are "immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens." Another difference is that seasonal allergies are not contagious, while COVID-19 most certainly is.

EmersonHospital.org has a comparison of the symptoms presented by seasonal allergies and COVID-19, and they say that one of the big things to consider is your past history. If you've had a history of being prone to seasonal allergies in the past, it's a pretty good indicator that you're going through it again, and allergy symptoms have a tendency to last longer than viral symptoms do.

Something else that may tell you that it's an allergy issue rather than COVID-19 is that allergies often respond to allergy medicines. Your Benadryl, Allegra, or Claritin isn't going to help with COVID-19 symptoms. Losing your sense of taste and smell, one of the big COVID-19 warning signs, can also easily happen when your nose and sinuses become jammed up or infected, so that symptom is not necessarily a COVID-19 indicator.

Maybe one of the best ways to tell is whether or not you're feverish or itching. Allergy sufferers don't develop a fever, while someone with COVID-19 will. Watering, itchy eyes, sneezing, and an itchy throat are signs of seasonal allergies, and not COVID-19.

One thing is for certain in all of this explanation: when in doubt, call your doctor.

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