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Is it a cold or allergies?

Changing of the seasons.  For some kids it also brings runny noses, itchy skin rashes and sneezes. Those pesky symptoms might just be a common cold but they could be a sign that your child has seasonal allergies.

Little girl sneezing

Signs it might be allergies

A simple cold usually doesn’t last much more than several days before it starts to get better and go away. However, allergy symptoms can go on for weeks to months. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some cues that this is more than a cold:
  • Rashes or patches of bumps or itchy, red skin that won’t go away
  • Development of hives—intensely itchy skin eruptions that usually last for a few hours and move from one part of the body to another
  • Repeated or chronic cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and throat clearing, that last more than a week or two, or develop at about the same time every year
  • Nose rubbing, sniffling, snorting, sneezing, or drippy nose
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth and throat
  • Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and other respiratory symptoms
  • Unexplained bouts of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and other intestinal symptoms.
Allergies are one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States. Consider the following statistics (from the AAP)
  • Some 50 million Americans have allergies (about 1 in 5 people)
  • The most common type of allergy is hay fever

What are allergies?

Your immune system protects the body against disease by searching out and destroying foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. In an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts and goes into action against a normally harmless substance, such as pollen or animal dander.

Allergies can develop at any age but they most commonly start in childhood and are often hereditary - if a parent or sibling has allergies, there is a 25% chance that a child will too. Don’t expect your child’s allergies to be exactly the same as family members though. Allergies are often to different substances or show different symptoms - a child’s rash instead of hay fever for example.

Signs it’s a cold and you should wait it out

With a cold, nasal secretions are often thick and discolored - with allergies they are typically clear and watery. A child with a cold may complain of a sore throat and cough. A fever is a sign of possible viral or bacterial infection, not allergies.
When to call the doctor
If your child has lingering symptoms - or what initially appeared to be a cold - that they just can’t shake, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the possibility of allergies.

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