Coughing, sneezing, runny nose? It must be that time of year again! Is it a Child Cold or Allergies? How to Tell the Difference when your child is sick! This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
Child Cold or Allergies? How to Tell the Difference
Do you know how can I tell when my kids are settled into the school year? ALL of the tissue boxes come out of the closet.
And you get a tissue! And you get a tissue! And you’re so special – you get the double layer tissue!
A sneezy boy here, a booger-y nose girl there, and a mom on-call 24/7. Fall is in the air…literally. How can you tell if your coughing, sneezing, runny nose child is coming home from school with a cold or allergies? Yeah, I’m with ya. Here’s how to tell the difference between a child cold or allergies. And of course, get tips to help your little one feel better sooner.
What symptoms does your child have?
If your child “looks sick,” the first thing you’ll want to do is check what signs and symptoms they’re having. Allergy and cold symptoms can seem similar (not to be confused with a child flu), but there are some distinct differences to be on the lookout for.
- itchy, watery eyes
- runny, clear mucus
- sore throat
- triggered usually upon contact with allergen or season change
- sore throat
- thick, yellow or green mucus
- body aches
- triggered usually in late fall/winter
What’s their temperature?
Fever or no fever, that is the question. One of the biggest differences between colds and allergies is the presence of fever. So have that thermometer handy when symptoms start. And if there are body aches, lethargy or a “they just don’t look right” feeling, check their temperature. And check it often. I’m a huge fan of checking for fevers – it’s an easy measurable indicator of your child’s health status.
How long is the sickness lasting?
How long has your child been under the weather? The length of time your child has symptoms can be a huge indicator on whether they have a cold or allergies. Colds tend to last around 3-7 days. Allergies on the other hand can last weeks, months, and in some cases all year round, depending on their exposure to the allergen.
How are your child’s friends feeling?
Is a school bug floating around? Chances are if a cold is going around school, your child’s friends may be feeling it too. Check with the teacher to see if there is a peak in cold symptoms, as well as absences in the classroom and school.
What activities are your kids participating in?
What has your child been into lately? Keeping in mind that allergies are usually quick onset triggered, allergies can be brought on by activities and things your child comes in contact with throughout their day. Backtracking what your child has been doing that day can help narrow down potential allergen triggers. Here are a list of common allergens:
- Pollen – tree, grass, weed
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Cockroach allergens (EW!)
- Animal dander
- Skin allergens like latex, poison ivy/oak/sumac
- Food and drug allergens
- Insect allergens
What’s the family history?
Chances are if there’s a history of allergies in the family, your child is apt to get the same ones. Check for similar allergies in other family members (yes, even grandma and grandpa!), and be sure to look for history of asthma and eczema as potential allergy indicators as well.
How do you treat child cold or allergies?
Allergies can be a pain and there’s no cure for the common cold. But the good thing about a child cold or allergies, there are ways to be able to treat your child’s symptoms at home. From steam showers to saline drops, vapor rubs to boxes upon boxes of tissues, keep your little one comfortable with lots of love and at-home treatments. Over-the-counter medicines may help too. It’s always important to double check proper dosing for kids and to refer to the Drug Facts label prior to giving any child medicine.
OTC Allergy Medicines include:
- Antihistamines to relieve itching, sneezing, and runny nose
- Nasal decongestants to reduce swelling in your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe
- Nasal Allergy Symptom Controllers (Mass Cell Stabilizers) to reduce how much histamine is released into the body when a person has an allergic reaction in the form of a nasal spray
OTC Cold Medicines include:
- Pain relievers/Fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fevers and body aches. If your child has a fever and you are treating their symptoms with an OTC pain reliever, remember that you always want to dose them based on their weight, not their age. Check out my parent guide to treating fevers in kids for more info on proper dosing.
- Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan to reduce coughing, especially at night (check for age appropriate dosing – many are not recommended for kids under age 4)
- Cough expectorants like guaifenesin to break up thick mucus (check for age appropriate dosing – many are not recommended for kids under age 4)
- Nasal decongestants like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine to reduce swelling in your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe
- Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines usually contain multiple medicines to treat for cold symptoms, which may include all or some of the medicines above. Use with caution, especially in kids and avoid double-dosing your kids with the same medicine.
It’s always important to work with your child’s doctor to determine the best treatment strategy for your child, so you can get them feeling better sooner. Learn more about knowing the difference between a child cold or allergies at KnowYourOTCs.org, a great parent resource with tips for treating your family with over-the-counter medicines.
Follow KnowYourOTCs for more kids health tips, including how to tell if it’s cold or allergies:
I am a #KnowYourOTCs blogging ambassador, compensated by the CHPA’s Educational Foundation in support of KnowYourOTCs.org. All opinions are my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians for more family tips, delicious recipes, and kid crafts.