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COVID-19, A Cold, or Seasonal Allergies?

Jul 14, 2023
COVID-19, A Cold, or Seasonal Allergies?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve had another option to consider when illness strikes. That runny nose could indicate a cold, seasonal allergies, or COVID-19. Sometimes, it’s the absence of symptoms that suggests the illness.

You can usually tell when you’re at the edge of an illness. Your primary concern was once deciding if it was a cold or seasonal allergies causing your symptoms, since each has a different path to relief. COVID-19 added a wrinkle to the process, since you now have a third option that causes similar symptoms. It also may have more serious health implications for some people. 

How do you determine which illness is active? As it happens, you can get some strong clues by taking a close look at your symptoms. If you’re at risk from serious respiratory illness, it’s a smart move to visit HealthyU Clinics at the first sign of trouble to rule out COVID-19 or to begin prompt treatment. 

While healthy and vaccinated people may find that having COVID-19 is similar to a cold, vulnerable segments of the population still face serious complications. Let’s compare symptoms to see if you can pinpoint COVID-19, common cold, or seasonal allergies. 

The common symptoms

Runny nose and fatigue can be symptoms of all three conditions, so looking simply at those two signs, you may not be able to tell which ailment is active. 

However, when you try to determine if it’s a cold or allergies, you could rely on the presence or absence of a sore throat to rule out allergies. Looking across a full spectrum of signs and symptoms can help you evaluate between allergies, colds, and COVID-19. 

Is it COVID-19, a cold, or seasonal allergies? 

Let’s look at a range of symptoms and how they demonstrate with each illness. 


As we mentioned, runny nose and congestion can be common to all three conditions. 


Coughing is a common symptom for COVID-19, though it’s most often a dry cough. It’s a common cold symptom too, but you may produce phlegm when you cough. Coughing is only sometimes present with allergies. 


You won’t have a fever if seasonal allergies are affecting you. COVID-19 usually produces a fever, and occasionally a cold will too. If there’s no fever, the balance tilts toward allergies.


Count on a headache if you have COVID-19. If you have a headache when you have a cold or allergy symptoms, these will be sinus headaches due to congestion. Otherwise, headaches are rare for these two conditions. 

Muscle ache

COVID-19 usually produces muscle aches as a symptom. Sometimes, a cold can do this too. If your muscles feel fine, your other symptoms point toward allergies. 

Sore throat

When you have a sore throat, COVID-19 and colds are the most likely culprits. Allergies generally don’t cause sore throats, unless you have postnasal drip in the later stages. 

Loss of smell or taste 

Loss of smell and taste indicates COVID-19 is active. You can also suffer smell and taste changes with colds or allergies, but these are often influenced by congestion. Taste and smell may be off, but you usually won’t lose these senses as you might with COVID-19. 

Each person’s reaction to any illness can have unique elements that make it difficult to pinpoint. Consider other things like time of year, known allergens, when you’ve been in crowded, unprotected spaces, and any other factor that might suggest a reason for your illness. 

When your symptoms threaten to move beyond the relief of home care, call or click to schedule an appointment with one of our 10 Arizona locations today.