How to spot if a cough is coronavirus or hay fever

·3 min read
Spring can be an uncomfortable time for hay fever sufferers. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)
Spring can be an uncomfortable time for hay fever sufferers. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

While the longer days and warmer weather of spring bring a sense of optimism for a restriction-free summer to come, hay fever sufferers have begun coughing and spluttering.

And with our focus being on coronavirus symptoms for the past two years, the emergence of seasonal and allergy-induced symptoms can make it a little more tricky to distinguish between the two.

Thankfully, an effective vaccination programme means deaths from coronavirus have plummeted, and it is now no longer a legal requirement to isolate with COVID-19. However, if you have any symptoms or a positive test result, public health advice is still to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. This means knowing how to spot if a cough is coronavirus or hay fever is just as useful.

Hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, especially when the pollen count is at its highest. With coughing a tell-tale sign of both the coronavirus and hay fever, how can you tell if pollen or the infection is to blame?

Read more: The 3 different types of hay fever – and how to spot them

A cough
A cough is a symptom of the coronavirus and hay fever. (Getty Images)

How do coronavirus and hay fever symptoms compare?

The NHS defines common coronavirus symptoms as a fever, new and continuous cough, and loss of taste or smell, among other symptoms.

The nine new symptoms recently added to the list also include shortness of breath, feeling tired or exhausted, aching body, headache, sore throat, blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and feeling sick or being sick.

Fatigue often occurs with hay fever. Like with the coronavirus, an allergy to pollen can also trigger a loss of smell, but not taste.

Headache, one of the newer coronavirus symptoms, often occurs during pollen season for hay fever sufferers, who may also experience pain at their temples and forehead.

Itchy, red or watery eyes are a common complaint among those with hay fever. The coronavirus may also trigger conjunctivitis, or pink eye.

Read more: Sunshine linked to lower coronavirus deaths

Hay fever commonly causes sneezing, earache, or a runny or blocked nose, similar to one of the coronavirus symptoms of a blocked or runny nose.

But, despite its name, hay fever does not cause a fever, which is a tell-tale sign of the coronavirus. The NHS defines an infection-related high temperature as feeling hot to touch on the chest or back.

"Hay fever doesn't cause a high temperature and most people don't feel unwell," Boots' chief pharmacist Marc Donovan has previously said.

General aches and pains (though hay fever suffers can have earache as well as headache), diarrhoea, and nausea and vomiting are not signs of hay fever. Meanwhile, hay fever patients also do not have a sore throat, however, it may be itchy, along with their mouth, nose and ears.

Read more: Hay fever remedies that work (from the sufferers who swear by them)

Most people with the coronavirus feel better within a few weeks, while hay fever can persist throughout the summer months. That said, long covid is still something to mindful of, and people should take it easy with recovery,

Previous research suggests more than four in five cases of the coronavirus Covid-19 are mild, though complications can cause difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. These could also be signs of an infection.

These symptoms have some overlap with hay fever. Asthmatics who are allergic to pollen often endure chest tightness, breathlessness, wheezing and coughing.

More severe cases of the coronavirus have also been linked to chest pain or pressure, as well as a loss of speech or movement.

Consult a medical professional if you have symptoms of coronavirus or hay fever and aren't sure what to do.

Watch: Dogs get hay fever too

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