OTTAWA -- Ragweed allergy season is starting, and with so many people suffering from seasonal allergies there are concerns that the symptoms might be confused with COVID-19.

Sneezing, runny nose, and a sore throat are just some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies, caused by plants such as Ragweed. Ragweed pollinates this time of year.

Russell Barth has seasonal allergies, "Pretty much for me every August is the worst for me living in the Ottawa Valley… because it’s like living in a bowl of potpourri. My throat gets all sore, and my voice gets husky, and I wake up every morning just plugged up with snot."

Many of those symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19, and Barth is ready to explain that it is just allergies,

"Hoarking, violently coughing for two minutes, I’m surprised the neighbours haven’t called 311 going, 'those two hippies have COVID or something.'"

With so many people cautious about COVID-19, a sneeze in public makes everyone nervous. Brooke Houle caught the attention of fellow shoppers.

"I was at Shoppers’ getting milk for my family, and I sneezed really loudly; and there were people around me and they just turned and looked at me all of a sudden - and I was like it's just allergies."

How do you know if you have allergies, or if it’s COVID-19?

Doctor Abdu Sharkawy is an Infectious Diseases Expert, and says:

"If you’re someone who suffers from seasonal allergies and you’re fairly confident that the symptoms you’re experiencing are related to that, I would say it probably doesn’t make whole lot of sense to become panicked or alarmed and rush out and get a test for COVID."

So when should you get tested for COVID-19?

Dr. Sharkawy says, "If you’re in doubt, the best thing to do is to begin self-isolation without any delay; contact your nearest public health unit."

Ottawa Public Health has resources available online, including a link to the Ontario self-assessment tool.