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Allergies or COVID-19? Immunologist breaks down the different symptoms

Pollen season is in full effect until May. Those sniffles may not necessarily be signs of having COVID-19.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A lot of you probably sneezed at the sight of yellow pollen this week.

It's a sign that allergy season is upon us, and one doctor and immunologist says our pollen season will remain with us until May.

"We actually were seeing pollen sooner last year than we are this year. So it's been pushed a little bit further into February. But of course, that means that our peak is now going to be happening now and into early March," Dr. Sunil Joshi, allergist and immunologist said.

Dr. Joshi is also president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation.

He says between now and Mother's Day, outdoor allergies will be a challenge at one of the most beautiful times of the year.

Dr. Joshi recommends speaking with your doctor and getting into a regular allergy medication regimen, whether its saline spray, medicine or any other means.

He says taking it daily will prevent allergies from flaring up throughout the season.

"You should plan on being proactive and start taking allergy medications now...doing things to try to minimize your symptoms, so that you can enjoy the time outside and not suffer through the pollen season because then you're going to be stuck with distinguishing between whether your respiratory symptoms are from your allergies, or from COVID,” Dr. Joshi said.

Cough, shortness of breath and sore throat are common symptoms of both allergies and coronavirus. But Dr. Joshi, and the CDC, say there are key differences.

“The itchy eyes, the itchy nose, the sneezing, itching in the ears or the back of your throat. Yeah, I think that's more allergy-related. If it's more fevers, body aches, a full systemic type of a process then you're thinking that this might be related to a viral syndrome, and you should, at that point, consider getting tested," Dr. Joshi said.

The CDC also recommends avoiding pollen to keep allergies in check. Dr. Joshi says in light of the pandemic, the outdoors is where COVID-19 spreads less.

Obviously being outside away from large groups of people [is better]. You know, compared with indoor events, it's much, much safer to be outside,” Dr. Joshi said.

When coming home, Dr. Joshi also recommends keeping the AC on to keep humidity down in your home. He also adds that showering at night, bathing pets that go outside can keep pollen out of your home.