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Could My Child’s Cold Actually be Winter Allergies?

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Could My Child’s Cold Actually be Winter Allergies?

Dec 18, 2023

Does it seem like your child gets bad colds every winter? If it lasts longer than a month, there is a good chance the sneezing and sniffling are not from a cold at all. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, explains how to tell the difference between seasonal colds and winter allergies.

Episode Transcript

If it's winter and your child's cold symptoms have been hanging on for more than a month, it might not be a cold at all. Your child might actually have winter allergies in disguise.

Winter allergies are just as common as allergies in other seasons. Most parents simply don't realize their child may have them. Many parents simply think that their child is getting a cold over and over and over again. And that might be the case. Don't forget, kids get six to eight colds a year.

And the most confusing part about figuring out if your child has a cold or allergies is that the symptoms are so similar. Airborne allergies and common colds, both have coughs, sneezing, and a stuffy, runny nose. But there are a few key differences.

Allergies Can Last the Entire Season

The worst part of a cold should last less than 7 to 10 days. And your child should actually have a cold linger for 3 weeks. But after the first week, they should start to have some improvement.

Allergies, on the other hand, tend to last through the entire season and don't ever seem to get better. The allergy will usually start at the onset of a season while a cold could begin at any other time.

Colds Can Have Sore Throats, Fevers, and Body Aches

Other ways to tell them apart would be that your child's cold may start with a sore throat, fever, or body aches. And recurrent colds that don't have a fever could be allergies. Itchy eyes or an itchy nose or both would also be hints that your child has an allergy, especially if they keep using their hands to swipe their nose upward. That's called the allergic salute. And if they do it long enough, they'll actually develop a little crease on the bridge of their nose. Your child will also have thin, stringy mucous rather than liquid, drippy mucous.

When to See Your Child's Pediatrician

We know that allergies change and develop over time because they're driven by exposure. So you have to be exposed to that allergen more them once to have that allergy. In winter, allergies tend to be mold, dust, dust mites, and animal dander. These flare in winter because people spend more time inside in small spaces where those things like to be. If you aren't sure what your child has, let their doctor have a peek up their nose to find out the answer.


updated: December 18, 2023
originally published: February 5, 2018