Medical City Healthcare - November 19, 2020

COVID-19, seasonal allergies and asthma are all respiratory conditions. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include coughing and difficulty breathing. Because COVID-19, seasonal allergies and asthma share many symptoms (along with colds and flu), it may be hard to tell them apart. Here are some clues for how to know if it's COVID-19, allergies or asthma.

Of course, if you're not sure, you can always get tested. CareNow® Urgent Care clinics offer COVID-19 and flu testing for the whole family with convenient Web Check-In® so you can save your place in line while you wait safely at home.

COVID-19 and winter allergies.

North Texas is equal opportunity when it comes to allergies — there's a season for everyone. Winter brings Mountain Cedar, which pollinates December through March and is a major cause of cedar fever. Dust mites and pet dander are also more prevalent during cold months, when families are bundled up indoors.

Bryan Thibodeau, MD, a Medical City Healthcare emergency medicine physician, says that with allergies, you're typically going to have issues related to your sinuses or your eyes. Sneezing and itchy, watery eyes are common allergy symptoms, whereas COVID-19 is more likely to cause other symptoms — including those that overlap with flu, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

One symptom that seems to be almost exclusive to COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell, although someone with a severe sinus infection could also experience this. To potentially make matters worse, it's possible to come down with COVID-19 and another respiratory condition at the same time.

COVID-19 and asthma.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that can make breathing difficult when airways become inflamed, swollen, narrowed and filled with thick mucus. People with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Your nose, throat and lungs (respiratory tract) can all be affected by COVID-19, which can cause an asthma attack and possibly lead to pneumonia or acute respiratory disease.

In addition to COVID-19, the winter allergens mentioned above and others can cause seasonal allergic asthma attacks. Winter's cold, dry air is another potential source of irritation that can trigger asthma symptoms, including:

  • Coughing (especially at night)
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Learn how to manage asthma in the winter and stay out of the ER.

Asthma sufferers should get a flu shot every year, as they tend to be hit harder by seasonal influenza and its complications.

Read 5 surprising things to know about flu and asthma.

Symptom COVID-19 Flu Cold
Symptoms (Begin) 2 - 14 Days 1 - 4 Days 2 - 3 Days
Sore Throat Sometimes Sometimes Common
Stuffy/Runny Nose Rare Sometimes Common
Cough Yes, typically dry Yes Mild to moderate
Muscle Aches Yes Yes, often Slight
Headache Sometimes Yes Rare
Fever Yes Yes, often high Rare
Fatigue, weakness Yes Yes Mild
Sneezing No Sometimes Common
Shortness of Breath Yes Yes Rare
Loss of taste/smell Yes Rare Sometimes (due to nasal congestion)
Diarrhea/vomiting Sometimes Uncommon No

When to get emergency care.

Even if you're not sure if it's COVID-19, allergies, asthma, flu or something else, some symptoms are severe enough that you need to call your family physician, make a trip to the nearest ER or even call 911. Take into consideration the age of the patient and the severity of the symptoms when deciding, but always go with your gut and err on the side of caution.

Always seek medical attention for someone who has:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (to the point where they can’t keep fluids or food down)
  • Chest pain, which could indicate myocarditis, a possible side effect of COVID-19
  • High fever that isn’t controlled by medication
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Severe head pain

Don't make the mistake of avoiding or delaying emergency care because of COVID-19. Learn more about extra precautions Medical City Healthcare hospitals are taking to help keep patients safe and why COVID-19 shouldn't delay emergency care.

At Medical City Healthcare, we're dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you'll Take Care!

For more information, call our Ask a Nurse hotline 24/7 or use Find a Doctor online.

You can also get care for minor injuries or illness at CareNow Urgent Care or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

Sign up for the Take Care E-Newsletter