Springtime allergies, or something more?

The breakdown on symptoms in the spring


Art by Anika Ravilla

Sahana Sri , staff writer

With mask mandates lifted and spring breezes blowing pollen into our faces, who knows whether your runny nose and headaches are from COVID-19 or just a case of spring allergies?

In the age of COVID-19, even a simple cough can elicit uncomfortable stares. But with springtime allergies plaguing 7.7% of American adults, uncontrollable wheezing, sneezing and sniffing can offset many people. We find ourselves saying, “It’s just an allergy. I’m not sick. I promise.”

However, it is difficult to tell the difference between symptoms of spring allergy flares and COVID-19, as both exhibit many of the same telltale signs. 

Let’s start with looking at what an allergy actually is. Allergies are the result of an overactive immune system reacting to an otherwise harmless substance that you have come into contact with. The immune system starts releasing antibodies to fight the unrecognized substance in an attempt to flush it out. 

COVID-19 triggers your immune system similarly, but at a much greater scale. While allergies trigger histamine releases to flush out substances, illnesses like COVID-19 prompt specific cells, proteins, and organs to attack the invaders. Both result in your stereotypical stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, headaches and fatigue.

However, the main indication that your symptoms are nothing more than a spring allergy flare-up is if they are accompanied by itchy or watery eyes. This is because the allergen clogs the tear ducts. Itchiness in the eyes or tears are methods of clearing up the duct and transporting the substance out of the body.

If you’re still unsure of whether you’re experiencing a bad reaction to pollen or whether it’s something more, check your temperature. Fevers are a clear indication that your body is fighting off bacteria or viruses. Because COVID-19 is a viral infection, it often also results in body aches and loss of smell or taste, although these symptoms may not be present if you are vaccinated.

Regardless of whether you’re sure of your allergies or not, it’s always a good idea to be cautious; getting tested for COVID-19 is always a good precaution just to be sure of your at-home diagnosis of your symptoms. There are a variety of options for COVID testing that you can utilize to make sure it’s just the pretty flowers in your garden that are causing your springtime misery, not the COVID-19 virus.