RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — With COVID-19 and allergies having similar symptoms, one Richmond doctor says one of his biggest challenges is distinguishing between the two illnesses or a sinus infection.

Richmond Ear, Nose and Throat Dr. Michael Armstrong said he’s had several patients come into his office with a variety of symptoms, and it’s his job to then figure out if it’s the coronavirus or just seasonal allergies.

“I often tell patients that they can expect that they’re going to have allergy problems from the time that the daffodils and forsythia bloom until the time that all of the yellow pollen has washed off of their car,” Dr. Armstrong said. “It’s sort of a harbinger. It’s one of the first blooming plants.”

He says the last few allergy seasons have been quite significant. This year, allergy season got an early start, in the middle of the pandemic, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“It started here in Richmond virtually the day after the last ice storm,” Dr. Armstrong told 8News Monday.

Dr. Armstrong said because a few symptoms of allergies can be similar to signs of COVID-19, like coughing or headaches, they test for COVID-19 even before they give an allergy test, just to rule out that diagnosis.

“We have had patients come in with a variety of symptoms and worried about COVID. We do lots of COVID testing in our office,” he said.

For now, Dr. Armstrong points out one of the telltale COVID-19 symptoms is fever, while allergies won’t cause your temperature to spike.

Another big difference is that COVID-19 starts with a virus, while seasonal allergies are caused by pollen, making the two unrelated.