Is It A Cold or Allergies: A Worried Parent’s Guide

May 21, 2018


Life might be easier if kids came with an instruction book. Most parents usually have enough questions to fill one and it can be extra difficult when your child is looking to you for answers and you don’t have any. That is especially true when they don’t feel good. All they want is for you to “fix it and make it better” but that’s hard to do when you aren’t so sure what you’re dealing with yourself! The experts here at American Family Care know a thing or two about sick children and overwhelmed parents. It’s just one of the reasons we’re open evenings and weekends.

One of the most common medical mysteries is the age-old question: Is it a cold or is it allergies? They can be pretty easy to mix up, especially when you’re an anxious parent that just wants to help your child feel better. So while the two are a lot alike, in most cases there are usually some key differences to keep in mind that’ll help you move forward with the confidence to help your child feel better in no time.

Fevers and Aches

That achy, painful feeling that makes you want to curl up on the couch like a potato is usually a reliable sign that you’ve got a cold. To be fair, allergies can be miserable! But allergies aren’t usually associated with the body aches and a fever that can come with a cold. When to see a doctor: If a child’s fever goes over 101 F, it might be a good idea to come in and see a physician. You NEVER need an appointment at your local American Family Care.

Watch the Timing

Does your child seem to come down with a “cold” every spring? Maybe they get a “cold” around Christmas each year? If you start to see a pattern, it is most likely seasonal allergies. That annual spring “cold” is most likely an allergic reaction to pollen while that Christmas “cold” could be an annual reaction to dust from decorations brought down from the attic! When to see a doctor: If you notice a pattern it might be a good idea to see a doctor and do some allergy testing. It’s the best way to know exactly what your child’s triggers are. When you have that information, you and your doctor can determine the best way to prepare and treat.

Disgusting Details

Parents might not like talking about it much, but chances are your kids will get a kick out of talking about their mucus! It actually can play an important role in determining whether you’re dealing with a cold or allergies. With allergies, mucus will most likely stay clear and runny. When you have a cold virus, mucus will usually thicken and may turn a yellow-greenish color. You’re sure to get a smile when you ask your child to blow their nose and show you their tissue! When to see a doctor: A sinus infection can occur with both allergy and cold symptoms. If nasal congestion lasts longer than a week, and the discharge is thick and colored, your child probably needs to see a doctor.

The Never-Ending Cold

So maybe you still can’t decide what you’re dealing with: a cold or allergies. There’s one last tip that might help. With a cold, symptoms might change every couple of days — starting off with a stopped-up nose, then moving on to a sore throat and finally a bad cough. After about ten days, a cold has usually run its course. But, if the symptoms stay the same and don’t resolve themselves, chances are you’re dealing with allergies.

The Right Care. Right Now.

Not knowing how to help your child when they’re feeling miserable is pretty miserable itself! With American Family Care, you never have to wonder. You can bring your child in to our urgent care center, no appointment necessary.


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