Millions of Americans experience seasonal allergies. In the fall, ragweed pollen is often the culprit. Mold is also a typical trigger for autumn allergies.

Here's why: Rotting leaves provide an excellent home for mold. This fungi thrives in moist, damp environments, and the tiny spores it releases into the air can cause nasal congestion, runny noses, sneezing, and watery, itchy eyes that people with allergies often experience.

And with COVID still spreading in our communities, it can be difficult to tell the difference between typical allergy symptoms and something more serious.

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Dr. Puja Rajani

But there's no reason to panic. Dr. Puja Rajani, an allergist at Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology, explains a few key differences.

1. Fever

Fever is one of the biggest differentiators between the two, Rajani said. COVID can cause a fever; seasonal allergies cannot.

If you have a known history of allergies, consider this: If you do not have a fever, “try a stepwise approach with using your usual treatments, such as long-acting antihistamines or nasal sprays,” Rajani said.

2. Itchiness

Another major distinction is that allergies will come with some level of itchiness. Itchy or watery eyes are common signs of allergies, Rajani said.

Alternatively, someone with COVID may experience symptoms such as:

  • Fever.
  • Dry cough.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • New loss of taste or smell.

3. Sore throat or body aches

A sore throat or body aches could be an indication it’s something more serious.

"A quick onset of aches and pains, fatigue, exhaustion or weakness is unlikely with allergies,” Rajani said. “While allergies can cause fatigue, it is usually very gradual, not ‘hitting you like a ton of bricks’ as has been described with viral infections.”

4. Mucus (Hint: The color matters)

If you’re producing mucus, it’s likely allergies or cold and flu symptoms, and not a COVID infection. A runny nose and mucus is typically clear in allergy sufferers, Rajani said.

Yellow or green-colored mucus likely points to a viral condition, such as the flu.

The dreaded flu

It’s estimated that 60,000 hospitalizations each year could be avoided if more people got the vaccine, said Dr. Charles Bregier, Novant Health medical director of corporate health. And the more people who get the flu shot, the more effective it is overall.

The flu vaccine is effective for about six months, so October is the ideal month to get vaccinated. If you get it too early, it may lose its effectiveness before the end of flu season, Bregier added.

It protects both you and others from the flu. If you get the flu and bring it home, an at-risk family member could get extremely ill.

“It's the perfect storm brewing out there. If COVID remains bad and it’s a bad flu season, it could completely overwhelm our nation’s health care system,"

Bregier said. Listen to his advice below.

Video visits

Don't forget about our virtual care options. You can get help for a minor illness, such as a cough, sore throat, rash, etc. from home by talking with your doctor or other Novant Health provider. You’ll need a computer, smartphone or tablet and a MyChart account, available free of charge.

Most visits take about 15-20 minutes. Prescriptions are able to be given. Patients under 17 will be paired with a Novant Health pediatric specialist.

On-Demand video visits: You’ll see a Novant Health provider. Wait times vary, but you’re generally seen within 30 minutes.

Scheduled video visits: You’ll see your doctor, depending on availability. Your visit will be at a time you schedule.

Enhance your video visit with TytoHome

TytoHome is a lightweight, portable medical exam kit that allows doctors to perform more detailed virtual exams than have previously been available.

Using TytoHome, patients can connect to a Novant Health provider who can virtually examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen from wherever they are – potentially eliminating a rush to the emergency room or the doctor’s office.

TytoHome is FSA eligible and available at NovantHealth.org/TytoHome, where you can also see demonstration videos. The TytoHome device costs $299 but is currently being offered at a reduced rate of $149 through 2021.

E-visits

In an E-visit, you describe your symptoms on an electronic questionnaire. A Novant Health provider will receive it and use it to diagnose your condition.

You’ll need a smartphone, tablet or computer and a MyChart account. A provider should respond within one business day.

Prescriptions are able to be given.

Prefer not to leave the house? Our virtual care options can help.

It's quick and easy.