Allergies, a Cold or COVID?

Do I have allergies, a cold or COVID?

What is the difference?

Recently, I woke up with a burning sore throat and a general malaise. My first thought was the dreaded COVID. But, as colds and fluI calmed my mind ( and tested numerous times) I realized the symptoms were my usual common cold symptoms. Intense fatigue the day before, burning sore throat and general malaise. And luckily, 3 home tests and a PCR revealed no COVID.

More often now patients call with questions about their symptoms:

Is it a cold, is it allergies or COVID?

Both the common cold and COVID are caused by viruses. The common cold virus is a rhinovirus (nose), COVID is caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, similar and vastly different. It is best that if you have doubts to test, and test again 5 days later, as cases are on the rise due to opening up.


cold, COVID, seasonal allergies

To make things a bit more complicated it is allergy season. Many of the symptoms of allergy can resemble the common cold, but are very different.

Allergies usually manifest with itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and/or sinus congestion.



A cold, seasonal allergies or COVID? Here is the symptom breakdown:

The MAYO clinic has broken symptoms down very clearly on how to differentiate between the common cold and COVID and seasonal allergies and COVID.

Here is the link to learn the difference between the common cold, COVID and seasonal allergies.

I have a cold, now what?

Colds usually run their course and there are still things to do to help you feel more comfortable and support your immunity.

  • Of course, food is the first place to start! Avoid sugar, processed foods, flour products, alcohol and dairy. Eat simply and lightly. Vegetables, soups, congee, steamed vegetables. Take the stress off your digestive system.
  • Avoid spicy foods which can aggravate heat symptoms.
  • Gargle with salt water. Use a neti pot, if you have sinus issues
  • Drink lots of water and herb tea: Mint tea, chrysanthemum tea are two lovely teas to clear the heat of a burning throat.
  • For more comprehensive herbal remedies contact me.


Allergies are a symptom that your immune system is overloaded. We have to bring that down, so that you are not as reactive. The good news is that Chinese medicine, acupuncture, food, herbs and some supplements are enormously helpful in reducing allergy symptoms and suffering. But here are a few easy tips:

  • Food, yes food. It is not what you eat when you have allergies but what you cut out. Each of us can be sensitive to certain foods, and sometimes only during allergy season! And the big culprits can be the usual suspects: sugar, dairy, wheat and baked goods, alcohol, citrus, strawberries, as well as very spicy foods (which cause more inflammation).
  • Acupuncture!  I have treated 100s of people with allergies, and in most cases acupuncture, a change in foods and herbs have helped folks reduce symptoms.
  • Herb teas: Nettles, long known for their natural anti-histamine properties is a wonderful tea to drink during allergy season.
  • Air purifiers: For those of you who have animals, dander can add to the onslaught of enivronmental aggravating factors. An air purifier and keeping air filters in the furnace clean can help.
  • There are many different herbs and supplements that can help. To set up an appointment, contact me.


The bottom line is that we are going to live with this and have to learn how. If you suspect COVID:

  • Get a definitive PCR test.
  • Stay home and quarantine and/or wear a mask in the house.
  • Let all those you have been in contact with know that you have contracted COVID.
  • Rest. Rest. Rest.
  • And, consider when you are better wearing your high quality mask when indoors with lots of folks. Remember, now that we are opening up and masks are coming off cases will rise.
  • There are herbs and supplements which can help you in healing. Chinese herbal medicine has a long history of treating viruses. In fact, there is a study going on at UC San Diego on a Chinese herbal formula and COVID.That being said, it will run its course and being vaccinated helps ensure the case is milder.

I hope this helps clarify and remind us to care for ourselves and each other.

Come in for acupuncture to help with immune support, stress and reduction and improving overall health.

To your health!

Ellen Goldsmith, MSOM, L.Ac., Dip. C.H.


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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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