Parents get worried when they see their child struggling with a runny nose and cough all day and night. These symptoms can make the child feel miserable and parents naturally want to find an immediate solution for a cure. But in order to properly treat the child, parents have to first determine if the sneezing and coughing are caused by a cold or by the child’s allergies.
As much as parents want a concrete list of signs and symptoms to distinguish the two, it is hard to draw a line. The best course of action is to see a pediatrician to swiftly find the cause of the discomfort. However, if parents want to figure it out on their own, here is a list of signs and symptoms of allergies and their differences from a common cold.
How to tell if your child has allergies, not a cold
- Allergies last longer than colds. Colds are resolved faster, usually, 7 to 10 days, while allergies last longer than that.
- Allergies have clear and watery nasal discharge. When wiping the child’s runny nose, check its color and texture. If it is a cold, the nasal mucus is thick, yellow, or greenish. The child’s nose will also be stuffy, rather than runny, if she has a cold.
- Allergies occur depending on the season. Most often, allergies are more prevalent in spring and summer when flowers are blooming and pollen are blown by the wind. When the child has a cold in September, it may actually be a cold. This may be due to infection from other people in school.
- Allergies can cause skin irritation and itchy rashes. If a bad skin reaction occurs at the same time as the headache, sneezing, and runny nose, it may be caused by skin allergies and not a cold.
- Allergies run in the family. The same family members might share the same cause of allergies or allergens, so the child may carry it too. If parents notice the same allergic reaction on the child, bring her to an allergist for allergy skin testing.
- Allergies can be cured with medication. The pediatrician can recommend antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal spray for the child to combat her allergies. Regular allergy shots are also advised for children to prevent allergies from coming back. If it is a cold, there are over-the-counter cold remedies that can help soothe the child’s discomfort.
- Seasonal allergies do not cause fevers. If the child has body aches and running a fever of up to 100F, it may because of a viral infection or a common cold.
- Allergies can be tested. To accurately determine if the symptoms are caused by allergies, parents can make use of allergy ELISA kits to test their children.
Causes of nasal allergies
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.6% of children younger than 18 years of age have hay fever or a respiratory allergy. This type of allergy can be similar to a cold in terms of symptoms. Parents can stay on top of the game by finding the source of the allergy, which may be dust mites, animal dander, pollen, mold, and feather. Children should stay away from these allergens so as not to make the allergic symptoms worse.