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9 Clues - Allergies or the Common Cold?

Dianna Graveman |24, May 2012


Does your child constantly sniffle, cough, or sneeze? Does it seem like your baby's nose runs all the time? It can be difficult to tell if your little one is suffering from a cold that will soon go away or from allergies, especially if your baby is very young. If you or your pediatrician suspects your child has allergies, tests can be performed to find out what's causing the reaction so that steps can be taken to improve your child's health. Below are some signs and symptoms that could mean your child has allergies, and not just a cold. If you're not sure, or if your baby's symptoms worsen or don't improve quickly, the best course of action is always to consult your health care professional.

Clue #1: If your baby's symptoms appear at the beginning of spring or fall, seasonal allergies could be in play. During the middle of summer or especially winter, when flowers and plants are not blooming or losing leaves, your child is more likely to have developed a cold from contact with another person who has the virus.

Clue #2: When your child's nose runs, is the mucous clear? That probably means an allergy. A child with cold will usually have yellow or greenish mucous.

Clue #3: Fever often accompanies a cold, especially just before or at onset. Allergy symptoms usually do not include fever.

Clue #4: Sudden onset of symptoms often means your child has come in contact with an allergen. Colds usually develop more slowly.

Clue #5: If your child is old enough to talk, does she complain of aches and pains or say her arms and legs hurt? If so, she probably has a cold or virus, not an allergy.

Clue #6: If your child rubs his eyes, it could mean they are itchy. While itchy, watery eyes can also accompany a head cold, this symptom nearly always accompanies allergies.

Clue #7: Do you have pets? Has your child spent a lot of time outdoors--or in a new environment? If so, she may have been exposed to pet dander or other allergens that could be causing her symptoms.

Clue #8: Has any family member--especially you, your partner, or your other children--been diagnosed with allergies? Allergies tend to run in families.

Clue #9: Did your child's symptoms go away after a week or so? Even if the symptoms returned later, it could be your child had a common everyday cold that went away, only to develop a new one when exposed to another virus. This is especially true during the winter months when people tend to stay indoors. If your child attends daycare or preschool, he is continually exposed to other children, increasing the chances that he will become infected with colds back-to-back.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies are so common that over 50 million people in the U.S. have some form or other. Colds are even more common--all children and most adults can expect to catch at least one or two colds every year. But if your child's symptoms come on suddenly at the time of a season change or introduction to a new environment, or if she has clear mucous with no fever and no aches and pains, chances are she is one of the more than 50 million allergy sufferers. Mild allergies often respond well to over-the-counter medicines, and your pediatrician or health care provider can make recommendations and help you determine the appropriate dosage. Most colds will go away on their own within 7 to 10 days.

Of course, always consult your health care provider if your child has prolonged or worsened symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests you also call your doctor any time your infant runs a fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or higher, or if he runs a fever for more than a day.

Related Articles

Can You Prevent Allergies in Your Baby?

Combating Allergies and Asthma While Pregnant

Most Common Baby Rashes

Cold and Flu Survival Guide for Parents

Mom's 2014 Cold and Flu Survival Guide


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