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
Date reviewed: July 2014
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Word! Allergy Achoo! Many things can trigger allergies, like pollen, certain animals, foods, or a bee sting.|
|Word! Skin Test If you think that you might have allergies, a special doctor called an allergist can help figure out what you are allergic to by giving you a skin test.|
|First Aid: Common Cold Kids can get up to eight colds a year - or more. The common cold sends more kids to the doctor than any other illness.|
|Seasonal Allergies (Hay Fever) At various times of the year, pollen and mold spores trigger the cold-like symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. Most kids find relief through reduced exposure to allergens or with medications.|
|Allergies Your eyes itch, your nose is running, you're sneezing, and you're covered in hives. The enemy known as allergies has struck again.|
|Is It a Cold or the Flu? Your child is sent home from school with a sore throat, cough, and high fever - could it be the flu that's been going around? Or is it just a common cold? Find out here!|
|Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.|
|Learning About Allergies During an allergic reaction, your body's immune system goes into overdrive. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|A to Z: Upper Respiratory Infection An upper respiratory infection (URI) can be caused by many viruses or bacteria. The common cold, croup, and sinusitis are all URIs.|
|Can Kids Get Allergies All Year? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Why Do Eyes Water? What does it mean when your eyes water? It's not the same as crying - or is it?|
|Why Does My Nose Run? You may have heard the old joke: If your nose is running and your feet smell, you must be upside down! But did you ever wonder why your nose runs?|
|Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on chicken soup, cold medicines, and other ways to feel better.|
|What Is Skin Testing for Allergies? A scratch or skin prick test is a common way doctors find out more about a person's allergies.|
|How Do Doctors Test for Allergies? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Allergies Explore more than 20 articles in English and Spanish about all aspects of allergies in children.|
|All About Allergies Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control.|
|Allergy Shots Many kids battle allergies year-round, and some can't control their symptoms with medications. For them, allergy shots (or allergen immunotherapy) can be beneficial.|
|What Makes Me Sneeze? If you just sneezed, something was probably irritating or tickling the inside of your nose. Learn more about why you sneeze in this article for kids.|
|Chilling Out With Colds Cough, sneeze, snort. Those are the sounds of a cold. Find out more about colds in this article for kids.|
|Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.|
|Common Cold With kids getting up to eight colds a year, this contagious viral infection is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.|
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