Your Child Has Summer Sniffles …Is It a Cold or Allergy?

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 07:06 pm

child sneezing during the summerSummer time is the time for fun and family enjoyment. The early and late parts of summer are, however, noticeable for stirring up allergic symptoms due to grass and trees in May and June and such plants as ragweed during August and September. Symptoms such as burning, itching eyes and runny, itchy nose with or without cough are typical symptoms of environmental allergies. There is no fever as this is not an infection. Symptoms of a summer cold however can mimic those of allergy, but usually itching is not a major part.

A cold, or upper respiratory infection, is, as the name implies an infection by viral agents that usually invade through mucus membranes (inside of nose, mouth or eyes), set up shop and multiply to some extent. The multiplication is usually self-limited as the body’s natural defense systems go to work. When the defenses are working, there may be fever, achiness, headache and a variety of other minor symptoms. Allergic symptoms do not usually include the systemic symptoms mentioned above.

Unfortunately sometimes, cold and allergy symptoms occur simultaneously, causing some confusion among parents, patients and Doctors in terms of diagnosis. Sometimes, also, it is impossible to tell them apart even to the most trained eye.

The bottom line is even though there may be no telling them apart, there is no cure for the common cold, and the combined symptoms can be treated similarly. If a child has known environmental allergy, he/she may be treated with an antihistamine such as Benadryl for short term (4 – 6 hrs) or Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra for long term (once or twice every 24hrs) for the symptoms; no response may indicate a cold and not allergy, while the concurrent symptoms of fever, achiness, headache and others may strengthen the diagnosis of a cold.

Certainly it is worthwhile to use a humidifier in his or her room to moisten irritated mucous membranes, drink plenty of fluids, and use Tylenol or Advil in the appropriate dosages for poorly tolerated symptoms. Important to note that controlling fever with the use of these medications is not necessary unless your child is very uncomfortable. Using these medications will not get rid of the fever in the long run, but it will make him or her feel more comfortable in the short term. The fever, remember, is there because the body is fighting off the infection and therefore is a relatively good sign in a healthy child. The fever will persist until the cleansing process is finished.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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