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Coronavirus vs hay fever: how to tell the difference?

By Dr Nighat Khan
Dr Nighat Khan

Dr Nighat Khan, GP at HealthHero, explains the main differences between hay fever and COVID-19 symptoms, how to prevent hay fever and how to stay safe during the pandemic.

Spring usually brings warmer, longer days and a green landscape. However, for many people spring is also associated with significant discomfort.

The UK has some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population being affected by one or more allergic disorders, according to Allergy UK Org. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is one of the most common forms, affecting between 10-30% of all adults and 40% of children.

As per NHS England hay fever sufferers will start to experience symptoms from March to September. Pollen count is at its highest when the weather is both humid and windy stimulating allergic reactions.

Woman with hay fever symptoms in a field of flowers

.Hay fever vs COVID-19 symptoms

Amidst the current pandemic, some people may mistake allergy symptoms for those of COVID-19. Hay fever symptoms typically include:

  • sneezing attacks;
  • a runny or blocked nose;
  • itchy, red or watery eyes;
  • itchy throat;
  • a reduced sense of smell or taste;
  • headaches and facial pain;
  • earache and reduced hearing as well as fatigue.
  • Those who have Asthma, may also have a tight chest, be short of breath, experience wheezing or a mild cough. Hay fever symptoms can last for weeks or even months, unlike a cold, which usually resolves after 1 to 2 weeks.   

On the other hand, primary symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to the touch on your chest or back;
  • a new continuous cough – frequent bouts of coughing for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours as well as shortness of breath.

People are also reporting other symptoms such as sore throat, loss of taste and smell, stomach discomfort and diarrhea


Inforgraphic explaining the difference between COVID19 and Hay Fever


The Royal College of GPs advises that sufferers of seasonal allergies such as hay fever should consider whether their symptoms are different to normal. It is vital for people who feel they may be experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 to seek medical advice and follow the government advice. If you suspect that you may have Coronavirus, you should self-isolate, no matter how mild your symptoms are, for at least 7 days.

How to ease your hay fever symptoms and minimize the spread of coronavirus?

Currently, there is no cure or effective prevention for hayfever, but you can ease your symptoms by being proactive and reducing exposure to environmental triggers.

Allergy UK Org recommends that hay fever sufferers do what they can to minimise symptoms, therefore reducing the need to touch one’s face or sneeze, which will help stop the spread of the virus. It has also expressed concern that people may leave their homes thinking they have just got the seasonal illness when they have actually contracted Coronavirus.

Follow the tips below from the NHS to ease hay fever symptoms while following the government advice on how to reduce the chances of getting Coronavirus.

Washing hands

How to reduce hay fever symptoms:

1. Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen and wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes.
2. Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash off pollen.
3. Stay indoors (at home) whenever possible.
4. Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible.
5. Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth.

How to reduce the chances of getting coronavirus:

1. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
2. Wear a face mask if you are in an enclosed space where it is hard to keep two metres away from others.
3. Wash your hands for at least 20 second when you get home, before eating and handling food, after sneezing and blowing your nose.
4. Stay home, especially if you are not feeling well.
5. Make sure you catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue and put used tissues in the bin.



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