School just started and your child comes home with a runny nose, coughing and sneezing. Is it possible that they’ve already caught their first cold of the year? Could it be an allergy? With children back in school cold viruses are very common and spread easily in the fall months. However, ragweed and mold allergies as well as those triggered by pollinating plants such as sagebrush and Russian thistle are also common.
So, how can parents tell the difference between a cold and an allergy? Most people associate coughing, runny nose and sneezing with the common cold, however these can also be symptoms of a seasonal or environmental allergy.With such similar symptoms it often can be difficult to tell if a child has a lingering cold or an allergy.
Why Is It Important To Know The Difference Between A Cold An An Allergy?
Its important to know whether your child’s symptoms can be contributed to the common cold or an allergy because colds and allergies are not treated the same way. Untreated severe nasal allergies can lead to the sinus infections and in some cases even the development of asthma symptoms. In addition your child’s school may request them to stay home thinking that their symptoms are a result of a cold. For a child who has allergic reactions several times a year this could lead to a lot of missed school days for children and missed work for parents.
How Are Cold and Allergy Symptoms Treated Differently?
Often times colds are not treated at all or decongestants and cough suppressants are used to alleviate cold symptoms while the cold runs its course. Allergies are treated with antihistamines and sometimes nasal steroids. In addition allergy sufferers can try to reduce their exposure to the allergen.
How Can Parents Tell Whether Their Child Has A Cold or An Allergy?
Although colds and allergies have similar symptoms there are a few obvious clues that can help parents determine whether their child’s cough, runny nose and sneezing are caused by allergies or the common cold.
1. The discharge from a runny nose caused by a cold will start off clear but become colored within just a few days. The discharge from a runny nose caused by an allergy will remain clear.
2. Children who have a cold may have other symptoms such as a fever or muscle aches, while children with allergies won’t have these additional symptoms.
3. Children with allergies will often have itchy watery eyes, children who have colds won’t.
4. Children who have allergies will often have symptoms that appear at the same time every year. Cold symptoms are more common in the winter months but can occur at any time.
5. Your child’s symptoms seem to decrease on some days and will increase on others depending on the weather. Children who frequently have an increase in symptoms after a rainy or windy day are more likely to have an allergy than a cold since pollen counts are often high on these types of days.
6. Your child is the only one in the house who is sick. Colds typically pass from one family member to the next so the chances are if your child has a cold another family member will come down with the same symptoms in a few days. However if their is another family member with the same allergies in the house then it may be difficult to tell whether they have an allergy or a cold.
7. Colds typically won’t last longer than two weeks, however allergies will last as long as the child is exposed to the allergen.
8. Children with allergies often have dark circles under their eyes and a nasal crease near the bottom of their nose.
If you suspect that your child’s cold symptoms are actually being caused by a seasonal or environmental allergy you may want to consider having allergy testing done. Having the testing done will help pinpoint what your child’s allergy triggers are and will help you to better prepare for them.