Childhood illnesses can cause debilitating anxiety to even the most experienced of parents. During wintertime, children get a lot more colds since their immune systems are still immature. However, what worries parents most is that sometimes other conditions may be hiding behind symptoms very similar to the ones that come with the common cold. Allergies, such as (allergic rhinitis), bronchitis, and sinusitis (both are sometimes allergic in nature), can mask themselves as a very persistent cold. Here’s what you need to know to tell them apart.
Cold vs Allergies: Timing is Everything
Respiratory allergies, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), often look a lot like a cold. Begin by checking your kid’s temperature: if they have a fever, it’s not an allergy. Hay fever also comes with considerable itchiness of the eyes, nose, and roof of the mouth.
However, the most telling sign of an allergy is its duration and the timing of the symptoms. Most people recover from a cold after 10-15 days at the most, and their symptoms improve during that time. If your child’s symptoms persist after two weeks, look into it. You should also investigate further: do other kids at school have similar symptoms? Most likely, it’s a viral cold. Do the symptoms get worse at specific times of the day? After spending time outdoors doing sports? The culprit is probably an allergy.
Cold vs Sinusitis: Watch out for Persistent Fever and Pain
Allergies often cause sinus symptoms, but bacterial infections and viruses can complicate things. The main difference between the common cold and a sinus infection is again how long they typically last. Unlike a simple cold, sinusitis can last for four weeks up to over three months while it is often recurring or becomes chronic.
Both conditions present with similar symptoms: a stuffed, runny nose (often with yellow-green discharge), sneezing, cough, and low fever. Beware of a slight fever that continues after 10-14 days, pain in the face, headache, swelling around the eyes, and bad breath. These are indications that your child could have a sinus infection, and you should see a pediatrician for a diagnosis and treatment.
Cold vs Bronchitis: Cough that Doesn’t Go Away
Colds sometimes come with a lot of coughing, which is very annoying but eventually goes away. However, if your kid’s cough is unrelenting and worrisome, you could be dealing with a case of bronchitis, commonly known as a chest cold. Acute bronchitis occurs when the large breathing tubes in the lungs (bronchi) become inflamed. Children with chronic sinusitis, allergies, or asthma are more at risk of developing this condition.
A chest cold comes with cough (with or without mucus), chest congestion or pain, gagging or even vomiting, wheezing, a sore throat, slight fever, and chills. Most symptoms last for about 7-14 days, but the cough may continue for 3-4 weeks. If your kid has any of these symptoms, see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Since young children can’t understand or describe their symptoms in detail, try to be very observant and record every symptom, its intensity, and duration. This information can be very valuable to your pediatrician when they make their diagnosis. If the symptoms indicate an allergy, your doctor may refer you to a specialist so that you can get your child tested for specific allergens.
If your child or you are suffering from symptoms that may resemble allergies or sinusitis, please schedule an appointment for allergy testing. Our allergy and asthma specialists have helped thousands of patients in Arizona with allergies and asthma. Your child deserves to live a life that is free of allergy problems interfering with school and playtime
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“Respiratory Illness in Children-Advice from an Allergy Doctor”.allergyarizona.net/respiratory-illness-in-children/.
“Six Things You Need To Know About Sinusitis”. allergyarizona.net/six-things-you-need-to-know-about-sinusitis/.
Watson, Stephanie. “How do I know if I have a cold or sinusitis?”. medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310517.php.