As a parent, it's natural to worry when your baby or child isn't feeling their best. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between a common cold and allergy symptoms. We’re here to help you differentiate the two, and to help you find a solution for making your little one feel better.
"Recognizing the differences between cold and allergy symptoms is important. Accurate diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the quality of life for children with allergies, and prevent unnecessary treatments for those with a simple cold." - Dr. Alisa Roysman.
How to tell the difference between allergies and a cold:
- Duration of Symptoms: Typically, cold symptoms last for about 7-10 days, while allergy symptoms can persist for weeks or even months if left untreated.
- Fever: While a fever is a common symptom of a cold, it's not usually present in children with allergies.
- Color of mucus: If the mucus is clear, it's more likely to be allergies, while yellow or green mucus is more often associated with a cold.
- Timing of Symptoms: Allergy symptoms tend to occur at the same time each year when your child is exposed to a specific allergen, such as pollen or dust. Cold symptoms can occur at any time of the year and are more likely to be spread through contact with others who have a cold.
- Itching: Itching is a common symptom of allergies and is not typically associated with colds. Kids with allergies can feel itchy in their eyes, nose and throats. Sometimes their eyes will water or they will make repetitive throat clearing noises.
- Feeling ill: Although allergies can sometimes cause a child to not feel well, typically this symptom is reserved for children with infectious causes such as colds, viruses and bacterial infections.
If you are unsure whether your child has a cold or allergies, it is always best to text Summer Health and we can guide you. Based on your child’s symptoms, we can provide at home allergy testing or treatment options to relieve your child's symptoms.
When is Allergy Season?
Allergy season can vary depending on the specific allergen and where you are located. However, in general, allergy season often starts in the spring and continues through the fall. During the spring, trees release pollen into the air, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. In the summer, grasses and weeds release their pollen, while in the fall, ragweed is a common allergen. In some areas, mold spores can also be a problem during the fall.
What are common treatment options for seasonal allergies?
There are several treatment options available for baby and child allergies, depending on the severity and type of allergy. Some common treatment options include:
- Antihistamines: These medications can help alleviate allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itching by blocking the release of histamine, which is a chemical released during an allergic reaction.
- Decongestants: These medications can help relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages.
- Nasal sprays: These medications can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, relieving symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and sneezing.
- Prescription medications: When over the counter meds fail to help your child, there are often prescription medications that can be used to help. Summer Health can connect you with a pediatrician to determine what the next best treatment would be.
Before giving your little one treatment, it is best to speak with a pediatrician to determine the best options for your baby or child. Summer Health can connect you to a pediatrician in 15 minutes to discuss your child’s needs.
How you can prepare your child for allergy season
"Taking precautions during allergy season can help reduce your child's exposure to allergens and minimize allergy symptoms.." notes Dr. Alisa Roysman “There are simple things you can do at home to make getting through this season more comfortable for your child.”
Some ways you can prepare include:
- Limit outdoor time during peak pollen hour. Pollen counts are often highest in the morning and early evening.
- Keep windows and doors closed to prevent allergens from entering your home. Consider using air conditioning instead of opening windows to keep your home cool.
- Vacuum and dust regularly to remove pollen and other allergens from your home. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap allergens, and use a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces.
- Wash your child's bedding, including sheets, blankets, and pillowcases, frequently in hot water to kill dust mites and other allergens. You can also buy protective covers for their pillows and mattress.
- Encourage your child to take a bath or shower after spending time outside to remove pollen from their hair and skin.
Allergies are a common experience of childhood, especially during peak allergy seasons. By taking precautions and working with a pediatrician, parents can help reduce their child's exposure to allergens and minimize symptoms. If your child is showing allergy symptoms, or you have questions on how to prepare, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Summer Health.
Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Alisa Roysman
Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine
March 1, 2023