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Is It Allergies or a Cold?

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Allergies and colds can look and feel very similar, but can you tell the difference? This time of year It’s especially important to be able to differentiate the two as there are so many benefits to being physically active outside. Don’t let allergies hold your child back from getting outdoors, here’s how parents can recognize the symptoms of allergies and colds.

How to tell the difference between allergies and colds

Colds are brought on by the spread of a virus. They typically start out with a runny nose and sore throat, then progress to coughing and sneezing and can occasionally be accompanied with body aches, headaches, weakness and fatigue, or a fever. 

Allergies are caused by the immune system mistakenly identifying a substance (an allergen) as something that’s harmful to the body. The immune system then reacts and creates antibodies as a defense during the “attack”. When encountering that allergen again, the antibodies can release chemicals like histamine, resulting in allergy symptoms.

It may be allergies if: 

  • Mucus is watery or clear (not changing colors or becoming thick) 
  • Symptoms remain the same every day  
  • A stuffy or runny nose lasts longer than a week 
  • Eyes are itchy or watery 
  • Symptoms mostly appear seasonally 


Pay close attention to the time of year you notice your child’s symptoms. Although colds can strike at any point in the year, they are very common in the fall and winter months. Similarly, allergies can happen throughout the year too. However, pollen allergies are prevalent in the springtime as well as grass allergies from late spring to the summer.

Something else to keep an eye on is how long the symptoms actually last. A common cold can generally last for 7-10 days, whereas allergies tend to hang around until they are treated or the allergy trigger is completely gone.

Common allergy triggers:

Insect stings or bites  - For example a wasp, bee, fire ant, yellow jacket, and hornet

Allergens – Including pollen, dust mites, mold, and animal dander

Specific foods – Such as nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy

Latex – Such as gloves

Medication – For example medicine containing penicillin 

What you can do

Before getting treatment for your child, it’s important to first determine what is causing the issue, but this isn’t necessarily easy to do on your own. Our pediatricians in Plano, Texas can take out the guesswork by conducting a blood test or providing guidance for an elimination diet, which will then identify their exact allergy triggers, teach them what to avoid, and allow for the best treatment much faster. Schedule an appointment for your child’s allergy test today by clicking here or texting (469) 382-3796.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.