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How Can You Tell If Your Child Has Allergies or a Cold?

March 9, 2023

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No parent wants to see her child suffer through sniffles, coughs, sneezes, aches, and pains. Your first thought might be to call the pediatrician and get your little one in to be seen. And that’s not the worst idea; in fact, it’s often the best idea! But what do you say is the issue? Allergies usually need medication to make them dissipate. And while you can certainly treat some symptoms of a cold, it’s more of a waiting game until the body heals itself. How do you share with the doctor whether your child has allergies or a cold?


Seasonal allergies are typically the culprit when we discuss “allergies,” especially as the snow melts, temperatures increase, and flowers start to bloom. The reason your child’s nose runs and he starts sneezing is because his immune system is kicking in to fight off these common allergens. What’s really happening is that the body is creating histamines, chemicals that are released in response to something that’s irritating the body. That could be pollen, pet dander, or dust, among other things. You cannot “catch” allergies

Seasonal allergies typically last a few weeks and taper off as plants stop blooming and pollen stops blowing. Allergies can be treated by over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, nasal decongestants, nasal rinses, and decongestants. In severe cases, your pediatrician may need to prescribe a steroid nasal spray or injections.


A cold is caused by a virus and not by pollen or any of the other things that bloom during the spring. Colds are passed between people through secretion of bodily fluids. With little kids, this usually occurs after they wipe their nose and touch a surface or toy that another child picks up. Kids can also catch a cold by being in close proximity to others who sneeze or cough on them.

Being that it is a virus, a cold cannot be treated the same way as a bacterial infection. With a cold, you’re treating the symptoms—instead of the cause—through rest, increased liquids, analgesics (painkillers), and decongestants, depending on how the cold presents itself. Of course, a child with a cold is at risk of spreading it to friends and family, which is why most sick kids are urged to stay home during the first few days of symptoms.

Treating Allergies or a Cold

Naturally, if your child isn’t feeling well, you may want to make a visit to the pediatrician. After all, it’s better to be safe and ensure your little one’s (even if he’s a teenager!) wellbeing. Before administering treatment, the pediatrician needs to first determine if it is allergies or a cold. Be sure to share all the symptoms you’re seeing. A temperature is a great indicator: allergies are rarely accompanied by a fever, whereas a cold may be. If your child does have a fever, be sure to touch base with your pediatrician to see if you should schedule an office visit.

Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor can work with you to determine next steps. That might be as simple as suggesting an OTC medicine or something more long-term, such as regular allergy shots. But until you know if it’s allergies or a cold, you’ll be stumped.

Put Community Choice Pediatrics On Your Team

No matter whether it’s allergies or a cold, having a trusted pediatrician to call and ask questions is key. At Community Choice Pediatrics, we love seeing your children, and we are just as eager as you are to get them feeling better as soon as possible. If you’re looking for a new pediatrician, schedule an appointment online. We’ll be happy to visit with you, even if it’s just to provide some peace of mind.