|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
A Cold or Allergies: Which Is It?
My son has been sneezing for the past few weeks and blows his nose constantly. How can I tell if he has allergies or just a lingering cold?
Seasonal allergies and the common cold can be so much alike that it's sometimes hard to tell the two apart. But look closely and you can find clues about what's going on.
Ask yourself these questions to help figure out if your child could have allergies or a cold:
If you think that your son has an allergy, talk to his doctor. Exposure to animals, smoke, pollen, dust, foods, soaps, and mold are just a few of the things that can cause allergies. So try to note anything new that he's been exposed to. Identifying and removing the cause can help prevent allergy symptoms.
Often the only way to know exactly what someone is allergic to is with an allergy test. This, if recommended for your son, would be done in an pediatric allergist's office. The testing can be done on the skin (where an allergen is placed under the skin to check the body's response) or through a blood test.
If your son does have allergies, the doctor will recommend reducing exposure to the allergen(s) and, perhaps, using an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription allergy medicine to relieve symptoms.
And if it looks like your son has a cold, check with his doctor before giving him OTC cold medicines. There is little proof that they work, while serious side effects are a risk, especially in younger kids. You can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever or pain. The doctor may recommend running a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer at night to help moisten the air. Also, using saline (saltwater) nose spray or drops can help loosen mucus for both allergies and colds.
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD