AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Seasonal allergies have been spiking around the Amarillo and High Plains area in recent weeks, with high amounts of grass and weed pollens clouding the air. At the same time, major viruses such as RSV, flu, and COVID-19 are beginning to spread in the community, and similar symptoms can make it difficult to gauge how concerned you should be about a cough or sneeze.

While the best way to know whether you have allergies or something more serious is to take a test, the World Health Organization, Mayo Clinic, and UC Davis Health have all pointed out a few ways to help tell the difference between allergies, a cold, the flu, and COVID-19.

The Amarillo Public Health Department previously reported that at least one recent COVID-19 variant may cause symptoms of pink eye, especially among children. However, aside from some exceptions, sources such as UC Davis have noted that even with new COVID-19 variants such as Eris and Omicron in 2023, the symptoms have remained mostly the same.

The Mayo Clinic released a set of detailed charts comparing many of the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19, allergies, the common cold, and the flu.

Paired with other symptom information from the WHO and CDC, these comparisons include:

Muscle achesUsuallyNeverSometimesUsually
Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, earsNeverUsuallyRarelySometimes
Sore throatUsuallyRarelyUsuallyUsually
Nausea or vomitingSometimesNeverNeverSometimes
Runny or stuffy noseUsuallyUsuallyUsuallyUsually
Pink eyeSometimesSometimesSometimesSometimes
Loss of smell or tasteUsuallySometimesSometimes Rarely

As noted in previous reports, people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely to experience cold-like symptoms with things such as an omicron infection, while unvaccinated people are more likely to report flu-like symptoms and shortness of breath.

Another indicator noted by healthcare professionals is that symptoms for the flu tend to happen hard and fast, and those for viruses such as COVID-19 or RSV tend to happen a bit more gradually, seasonal allergies tend to cause the same mild symptoms for much longer stretches of time. Itchy and watery eyes and sneezing have also been noted to be more common with allergies than with COVID-19.

No matter what symptoms a person may have, healthcare experts have continued to suggest that eligible people receive the most updated vaccines for illnesses such as the flu and COVID-19, and suggest that people who think they may have been exposed to the flu or COVID-19 get tested.

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