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How Do I Know if My Child Has a Cold or Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)

Colds are infections of the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nasal passages, throat, and larynx). They are caused by several different viruses and are spread by touching a person with a cold, or touching object that someone with a cold has touched, or by breathing the virus in the air after someone with a cold has coughed or sneezed into the air.

Seasonal allergies (hay fever) are caused by the immune system reacting to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds as if they were harmful to the body. This reaction causes symptoms that can be similar to a cold. Allergies often run in families. Seasonal allergies occur at the same time each year. If your child has allergy symptoms all year long, he or she may be allergic to thinks in the home, such as dust mites, animals, mold, and cockroaches.

The following table is a guide. See your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Symptoms

Allergy (Airborne)

Cold

Stuffy or runny nose

Often

Often

Sneezing

Often

Often

Sore scratchy throat

Often

Often

Red or itchy eyes

Often

Rarely, never

Fever

Never

Often, especially at the start of a cold

Weakness and fatigue

Sometimes

Sometimes

Headache

Sometimes

Often

Cough

Sometimes

Often

Hoarseness

Sometimes

Often

Recur at a certain time of year

Often

Rarely

Need for antibiotics

No

No

Warning time

Symptoms occur after exposure to allergen

Gets worse over several days

How long it lasts

As long as your child is exposed to the allergen

Usually three to 14 days

Online Medical Reviewer: Blaivas, Allen, J., DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.