Allergies or a Cold?

Allergies and colds have similiar symptons in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Is your child's sneezing part of a cold or just seasonal allergies? Researchers have a few tips on how to distinguish a child's cold or allergy symptoms.

Seasonal allergy symptoms have a lot in common with cold symptoms. Sneezing, nasal congestion, headaches and fatigue are all allergy symptoms which could be confused for signs of a cold in a child.

By correctly identifying it as allergies or a cold can lead to the child receiving the best treatment possible.

"Ask your doctor if allergy testing is needed for your child."

Researchers and doctors, led by Michelle Lierl, MD, from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center offer some insight on what parents should look for to determine if a child's symptoms are related to a cold or allergies. Paying attention to the details of a child's symptoms will help lead parents to the correct diagnosis.

According to Dr. Lierl, a child with allergies will experience more nose itchiness than cold sufferers. Children with allergies will have sneezing episodes and will have more itchiness of the nose and eyes while children with a cold won't have itchiness. Nasal discharge for allergy sufferers are usually clear and watery while a child with a cold may have a thick yellow mucus discharge.

If observing these symptoms is not enough, parents could talk to their child's doctor and see if an allergy screening test, called Immunocap, or RAST, is needed.

The Immunocap is a blood test that looks for specific allergen antibodies. Doctors should test for specific seasonal allergens and not other types of possible allergies like a food allergy. Getting the results of the Immunocap can take from seven to ten days. Doctors can also administer a skin prick test to assess for allergies as well.

If a child is diagnosed with an allergy, such as a tree pollen allergy, there are several steps parents can take. Cleaning air filters monthly can reduce the number of irritants in the air. Parents should monitor pollen counts and close windows, including car windows, during high pollen count days. Parents should also minimize the amount of time a child is outside, especially in the morning when pollen counts are the highest, during those high pollen count days.

When a child comes back from being outside they should change clothes and wash their hands and face. This will help reduce continued exposure to allergens.

Allergies can lead to sinus infections. Using nasal irrigation with a saline solution, such as a neti pot, can help remove excess mucus. Parents should also consider a saline solution for a child's eyes to help remove pollen buildup. 

In addition to all of these preventative measures, most importantly, a child should take any prescribed allergy medication. This will greatly improve symptoms and quality of life. 

No funding information was provided. Statement was released by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 11, 2012