As the weather begins to warm up as spring approaches, you may notice your child is consistently sneezing or has a runny nose. With seasonal allergies becoming more prevalent, sometimes you cannot tell if it is hay fever or a cold. So, parents often alternate treatment for hay fever and cold because of the similar symptoms. If you frequently confuse allergies and colds in your child, read on for useful insights.
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is an allergic response to an irritant or environmental allergen that causes cold-like symptoms, including congestion, itchy eyes, and runny nose. The symptoms begin when your child is exposed to substances they are allergic to, like pollen or dust. While it is not a viral infection, it affects your child’s life by making them uncomfortable, irritable, and tired. If your kid has asthma, the allergies can worsen the symptoms, and your child can experience wheezing or breathlessness. Your child is likely to suffer from hay fever during spring or summer when the pollen count is high. However, other irritants may trigger the condition throughout the year.
A cold is also a rhinitis infection since it leads to inflammation and irritation of the nasal cavity. However, unlike hay fever, a cold is due to a virus that affects the upper respiratory tract causing sneezing and a running nose. Most kids acquire viral infections from contact with infected persons.
While you can treat both conditions with over-the-counter medication, you need to be sure you are not treating a cold when your child has hay fever. The medication could have adverse effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies and a Cold?
Hay fever is common in children above three years old, and you need to treat the symptoms since they can lead to long-term conditions like asthma or sinusitis. Allergic rhinitis symptoms manifest when your child is exposed to an allergen. Some of the symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny and itchy nose
- Watery, red, itchy, and swollen eyes
- Itchy throat
The above symptoms are severe at certain times of the year due to triggers. Some of the triggers for hay fever include:
- Pollen, which can be either tree, grass, or ragweed pollen common in spring and summer
- Dust mites or pet fur
- Cockroaches can also cause allergies
- Spores from fungi and mold
Apart from the above triggers, other irritants like smoke or strong odor can cause an allergic reaction. Genetic factors also increase the chance of hay fever. If someone in your family has allergies, your child is more likely to develop hay fever.
The following signs and symptoms often characterize a cold:
- Runny nose with thick yellow discharge
- Sore throat
- Body aches
How to Differentiate Allergies From a Cold
While the symptoms of hay fever and cold have numerous similarities, you can find a few clues to help you determine if it is the former or the latter. Some of the tell-tale signs include:
Fever and Exhaustion
Fever signals that the child likely has an infection that is raising the body temperature. Therefore, if a fever accompanies the rhinitis symptoms, you should seek treatment for a cold. If your child is also exhausted and wiped out, they likely have a viral infection. While hay fever causes fatigue, your kid will still be able to go to school and do a few activities.
Both hay fever and cold lead to a nasal discharge, but the colors can help you tell the difference. Your child will have a thin and clear discharge with allergies, while a cold leads to a thick nasal discharge that can be yellow or green.
Duration of Symptoms
A cold will only last a couple of days and a maximum of 14 days, whether you administer drugs or not. However, your child will show hay fever symptoms as long as they are exposed to the allergen.
If you still have trouble determining whether your child has allergies or a cold, you should consult a doctor when they show any of the symptoms. Children and hay fever is never a good combination, as it can lead to lifelong complications. Therefore, you should be proactive in managing allergies.
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