• Dr. Khetarpal

Seasonal Allergies or COVID-19? Know the Difference!

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

We are all concerned that any symptoms related to our sinuses or nose or throat might be the start of Covid-19. It’s scary. Even though I am a sinus and allergy specialist, I have had the same fear as everyone else. So, which one is it?

The most common sinus symptoms are sinus pressure, stuffy nose, headache, pressure behind the eyes, postnasal drip or thick nasal discharge, smell alteration or loss of smell. Fever is typically lacking in chronic sinus infection. However, chronic sinus symptoms are typically not associated with fever or shortness of breath. The nasal discharge may be yellow or greenish in color.

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In Covid-19, on the other hand, the more common symptoms are fever, cough, malaise, fatigue, shortness of breath, possible diarrhea or stomach upset, possible headache, skin rash in children or sore throat. Loss of smell is an early sign of Covid-19 and may precede other symptoms but can be present in chronic sinusitis. Symptoms typically get worse after a week of Covid-19 and generally these symptoms do not improve with antihistamines or nasal steroids.

Covid-19 is associated with a dry cough. The triad of fever, cough and shortness of breath is concerning for Covid-19. Shortness of breath may be associated with low oxygen in the blood and a pulse oximetry may show levels less than 93%. This is never seen in sinusitis. Testing and treatment is highly recommended if shortness of breath is associated with a pulse oximetry reading of less than 93%.

Dr. Khetarpal


Dr. Umang Khetarpal finished his medical school at the young age of 22 and is trained in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck and Facial Plastic Surgery. He completed his internship and specialty residency training in Syracuse, New York. He also has extensive research experience and additional clinical experience through fellowships at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston. He has co-authored book chapters and many publications in peer reviewed journals within the specialty. He has presented at major specialty society meetings and at academic institutions. Topics of his research included hearing loss and balance disorders, sinus problems and sleep apnea. His recent research efforts have been entirely focused on sinusitis, especially recurrent acute rhinosinusitis, allergies and in office balloon sinuplasty and in office sinus surgery. He has recently presented five papers at the International meeting of Rhinology in Chicago, June 2019. He discovered and was the first to describe a novel ear disease in families that resulted in balance and hearing problems. His most innovative research was in the cutting-edge field of genetics in Otolaryngology where he was involved in finding the genetic defects for several different diseases. In addition, he has taken time to observe the surgical techniques of some of the world’s most renowned surgeons in plastics surgery. He had been featured 3 times over the years in newspapers in the Rio Grande Valley for introducing latest treatments in thyroid cancer, sleep apnea and sinus surgery locally. His current interest is in molecular genetics of allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis with and without polyps and in finding better cures for these conditions. He now calls Houston his home and is starting his practice in the Woodlands.

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