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You're congested and you've got a fever. Is it COVID, or something else?
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You're congested and you've got a fever. Is it COVID, or something else?

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If you follow the news, you know COVID-19 cases continue to be a problem both locally and statewide.

Though Lancaster County has seen declining case numbers for two straight weeks, it's still averaging more than 100 cases a day.

However, just because you've got a stuffy nose, sore throat, fever, cough or body aches, it doesn't mean you have COVID-19.

Dr. Michael Schooff, Primary Care Medical Director for CHI Health, said doctors and hospitals are seeing numerous cases of strep throat, respiratory syncytial virus and other respiratory illnesses.

"We are seeing lots of ill patients coming into our clinics," Schooff said.

So far, doctors have not been seeing flu cases, he said, but those are likely to start showing up in the next couple months.

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Most health care professionals expect this year's flu season will be much worse than last year's, when mask wearing and social distancing led to very little flu, but they're not sure whether it will rival previous years, such as 2018 or 2019.

Schooff encouraged people to get a flu shot and also to practice other mitigation strategies, such as hand washing and social distancing.

One tell-tale symptom that signals COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell, Schooff said, although only about 60% of people experience that. If you have symptoms that could be COVID-related, he said it's important to talk to a health provider and consider getting tested.

PCR tests are the most accurate option, and you should wait to get one until three days after the onset of symptoms if possible, Schooff said, because that will make it less likely to get a false negative result.

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Another complicating factor this time of year is seasonal allergies, which can cause many of the same symptoms as COVID-19 and other illnesses, including congestion, sore throat and headache.

Dr. Ashley Bauer, an ear, nose and throat specialist with CHI Health, said there are a couple of key factors that could signal your symptoms are caused by allergies.

Most fall allergies are caused by ragweed, pigweed or nettles, she said, and they will go away after the first hard freeze, which kills those plants.

One factor is that you've experienced allergies before. Bauer said that while it's not impossible to suddenly develop seasonal allergies, it's uncommon, especially in adults. Also, if your symptoms get better with the use of an antihistamine, then there's a good chance they are caused by allergies, she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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