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As a parent, the well-being your child is your number one priority. If it’s the middle of winter and you hear your child sneezing or coughing, you may fear they’ve caught a cold. However, you may have also welcomed a new pet into the household and begin wondering if that’s why they’ve started coughing and sneezing. Determining the difference between colds and allergies can be very difficult. Yet, knowing which it is can be helpful for treatment, expectations for how long it might last and determining if your child is contagious. In this article, we explain the difference between child allergies and a cold, including the different symptoms your child can experience from each.

Colds are caused by viral infections, which are spread from person to person.They can occur year round but are going to be more common in winter months. Symptoms usually last 3 days to 2 weeks, but remember that kids can get several colds per year or even catch colds back to back.ii Common symptoms of the cold are sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, mild cough, sneezing, and a fever.iii Most colds start with a sore throat and some stuffiness, followed by other symptoms like a cough and a mild fever on, or about, the third day.iv

Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to allergens.v Dust, pollen, or mold can trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream, which causes various The common allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, cough and congestion, sneezing, and sometimes a sore throat.vii Allergies can occur year-round depending on what your child is sensitive to, or may flare up during the spring and fall season.viii

Now that you know the difference between the symptoms for colds and allergies in kids, you’ll be able to help your child get the care they need. You’ll no longer have to question if your child has a cold or allergies because you can discern the difference. However, you'll need to visit a doctor to get a diagnosis if it is truly allergies. For additional resources, check out the Allergy Center for more articles, ranging from topics on how to choose your child’s allergy medicine to the causes of allergies and more.


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iCommon Cold in Children. Accessed 05/21/20.




vCold vs. Allergy in Children: How to Tell the Difference. Accessed 05/21/20. Accessed 05/21/20.



viiiIs It a Cold, Sinus Infection or Allergies? Accessed 05/21/20.