Is it COVID-19, allergies, or post-vaccine symptoms? How to tell the difference

A file image taken March 11, 2020 shows a man blowing his nose into a tissue. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)

With spring officially upon us and the novel coronavirus still spreading amid the country’s mass vaccination effort, it can be tricky to tell the difference between seasonal allergies, a coronavirus infection, and side effects post-vaccination. 

"It can be difficult to differentiate allergies from infection from COVID, especially when both can be prevalent at the same time of the year," Dr. Fred Davis, an emergency department physician at Northwell Health Long Island Jewish medical center on Long Island, N.Y., previously told Fox News.

There are some key differences between the three, however, that might make telling them apart a bit easier. 

"I always ask about itchiness and fever which are big differentiators. Allergies do not usually give fever but they do make you feel itchy and scratchy," Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer of the health care website WebMD, told Fox News of one key difference between a coronavirus infection and spring allergies. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also makes distinctions between allergies and coronavirus symptoms as well. While symptoms of both can include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, sore throat and congestion or a runny nose, symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle and body aches, a new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea are more common with a COVID-19 infection, per the CDC. 

"Viral infections often give you chills or fever and make you very tired. Allergies don't typically make you very tired," Whyte added. "Allergies don't make you short of breath or give you diarrhea where COVID can." 

As for post-vaccination symptoms, "side effects typically are a pain in the arm, fatigue, and sometimes headache," said Whyte. "It's all about timing; they occur typically 4 hours or so after vaccination and resolve within 24-36 hours," he continued, noting that allergies and symptoms related to a coronavirus infection do not resolve that quickly.

Overall, if you are unsure and are concerned you may have been infected by COVID-19, it is recommended to get tested and follow CDC guidelines to avoid the spread of the disease, per the federal agency.

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Those who receive the vaccine and experience a worsening redness or tenderness where they were injected after 24 hours, as well as those whose side effects are worrying or do not seem to be going away after a few days, should contact their doctor or health care provider, the CDC recommends. 

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