Is it COVID-19, flu, allergies or a cold?

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 4:31 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - With fall comes another allergy season, and cold and flu season.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors said many people may be concerned when they experience symptoms that are associated with one or more of these illnesses.

Jessica Grayson, M.D., assistant professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Otolaryngology, said that knowing when to get tested and when to see a doctor can be two of the most important things to remember.

Chronic rhinosinusitis is chronic inflammation of the nose and sinuses for 12 or more weeks. Rhinitis is inflammation of the nasal airway that can occur with viral illnesses, allergens or irritants.

“Rhinitis can be seen in COVID-19, as well as nasal congestion and a runny nose,” Grayson said.

Grayson says CRS presents after more than 12 weeks of facial pain, pressure, drainage, nasal obstruction, purulence or changes in smell.

CRS is treated with saline or steroid nasal irrigations, occasional courses of antibiotics and oral steroids, and potentially sinus surgery.

Rhinitis is treated with over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines if driven by allergy and potentially allergy immunotherapy.

COVID-19 has an acute onset of congestion, rhinorrhea, smell loss, fevers or cough.

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and you have been around other people, Grayson says you should be tested. She adds that, if you have fevers, cough, sudden smell loss, acute gastrointestinal symptoms and/or headaches, you should consider the possibility that this is COVID-19.

“It’s complicated and understandable to be confused,” she said. “In the setting of the pandemic, we cannot assume that symptoms are just a random virus. We have to be vigilant about COVID-19 to prevent spread to others.”

Grayson adds that the best way to reduce the risk of hospitalization is to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Schedule your vaccine appointment at

WBRC’s Cassie Fambro talked to health leaders about the differences in COVID-19 and RSV in children.

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