Allergies vs Cold
- Dr. Page
Allergies or Colds? How you can tell the difference?
It’s that time of year when many parents wonder if their child has a cold or if they have seasonal allergies! The symptoms can actually overlap. However, there are clues that can help you decipher which one it truly is.
First of all, what is a cold? A cold is a viral infection that is contagious. This means that one person can pass on their infection to others through direct contact (with airborne respiratory droplets) or indirect contact (viruses on surfaces that are touched).
Common symptoms of viral infections: fever, runny nose (ranges from thin or thick and varies in color), congestion, cough, intermittent sneezing, sore throat, body aches, fatigue/more tired, occurs mainly during the winter.
Allergies, on the other hand, occurs when a child has an exposure to certain particles (tree, grass, weed pollen for example) and this causes their immune system to react.
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies: persistently clear runny nose, congestion, spasmodic sneezing (sneezing multiple times in a row), itchy/watery eyes, itchy nose, occurs in spring/summer/fall
Questions to ask yourself:
- How old is the child? Viral illnesses are much more common in kids less than 3 years old than seasonal allergies. Kids need to be exposed to the allergic particle over multiple seasons before developing a seasonal allergy.
- What time of year is it? If it’s during the winter, then most likely it is viral. If it occurs during the same spring/summer/fall every single year, then it could be seasonal allergies.
- How long has the symptoms lasted? Allergies tend to cause symptoms as long as the child is exposed to the allergen, therefore they can have symptoms for weeks even months! Colds in younger children tend to last 10-14 days, then resolve. Be wary that one viral illnesses can overlap another viral illness, making the duration seem longer than usual!
- Was there a fever when the symptoms began? If yes, then it’s likely a cold or viral infection. Allergies do not cause fever; Hay fever is a misnomer.
- Is your child more tired? Do they feel wiped out? This is more common with colds or viral infections
- What are other signs that it could be allergies?
- Allergic salute – kids that rub their palm upwards on their nose because it itches and it causes a crease on top of their nose.
- Allergic shiners – darker discoloration on the lower eyelid