Is it Allergies or a Cold?

Sneezing. Watery eyes. A runny nose. A cough.

If your child starts experiencing these symptoms, you know something’s going on. But these signs can point to more than one illness or condition. In fact, they can point to two — seasonal allergies or a cold.

  • Seasonal allergies are when your immune system reacts to something in the environment, like pollen or mold.
  • The common cold is an infection in your upper respiratory tract, including your throat and nose.

With their overlapping symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between allergies and the common cold. Fortunately, some differences can help you figure out what is causing your child’s discomfort.

What are the symptoms of Allergies or Colds?

Cough and fatigue are two shared symptoms of allergies and colds. To determine what is impacting your child, you’ll need to check for other symptoms.

Shared symptoms of allergies and colds include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Occasional loss of taste or smell
  • Cough

Keep in mind — allergies and colds can trigger asthma. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, chest pain, shortness of breath and/or quick breathing. If you notice symptoms of allergies or a cold and later notice symptoms of asthma, it could be a combination of more than one condition.

What are the Differences Between Seasonal Allergies and a Cold?

The symptoms of allergies and colds can overlap. Seasonal allergies and colds both impact parts of the upper respiratory system, like the nose and throat.

You can help determine which condition your child may have using the following criteria:

Allergy Colds
Onset of Symptoms Suddenly Gradually
Length of Symptoms Several weeks Two weeks or less
Type of Cough Rare, but can cause a dry cough Frequently cause a cough alongside mucus production
Presence of Sore Throat Occasionally can cause a mild sore throat Likely to cause a sore throat
Presence of Body Aches and Pains Won’t cause body aches and pains Frequently lead to body aches and pains
Presence of a Fever Won’t cause a fever Can occasionally have a short period of fever

How Are Allergies and Colds Treated?

Determining the cause of your child’s symptoms can help you and your child’s pediatrician determine how to treat them.

Treatment for allergies might involve avoiding triggers and using over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines. In more severe cases, your child’s pediatrician may recommend prescription medications or allergy shots. They may also refer your child to a pediatric allergy specialist.

To manage the symptoms of a cold, plenty of rest and fluids are key in helping your child feel better. Your child’s pediatrician may also recommend over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms.

Keep in mind, you should always check with your child’s pediatrician before giving your child medications. This is because some over-the-counter medications are not safe for children under a certain age.

When In Doubt, Ask Your Child’s Pediatrician

If your child is showing signs of an illness, seek the expertise of your child’s pediatrician. While there are telltale signs of one condition or another, your healthcare provider is specially trained to determine what is exactly impacting your child’s health.

Getting to the root of your child’s symptoms is key to helping them find relief. By taking a close look at their symptoms and keeping in touch with their pediatrician, you can say goodbye to those sniffles, sneezes and other pesky symptoms.

Do you have questions about your child’s allergies or cold symptoms? Contact your pediatrician to help determine what condition might be causing their discomfort.


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