Does Your Child Have a Cold, or Is It Allergies?
What Time of Year Is It?
In the spring, pollens from trees and flowers are everywhere. If your child is sneezing, wheezing and dripping, blame the pollens.
In the summer, mold and insect bites can also trigger allergic reactions. The hot months are also marked by “food pollen syndrome.” That’s when fruits and vegetables carry allergens that can set off symptoms in your mouth.
Also, if your child is having symptoms at different times of the day, "it’s consistent with allergies,” McMorris says. “I always try to relate it to what kids are doing.”
Say your little one wakes up congested, for instance -- she may be reacting to dust mites, dander from the family dog or cat, or indoor molds. If she doesn’t want to eat for a few hours after waking up, it may be allergy-related nasal drainage dampening her appetite. If the itchy eyes and sneeziness tend to come on when she’s at soccer practice in the morning, keep in mind that that's when plants tend to pollinate.
When it’s winter time and your child’s eyes are fine, though, it's more likely that a virus is to blame for her symptoms, McMorris says. Still, you’ll need to ask your pediatrician to find out for sure. You may also need a referral to a doctor who specializes in allergies.
How Old Is Your Child?
Most people's asthma starts by age 6, says Fernando Martinez, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist who leads the University of Arizona’s Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center.
“It is rare you will develop asthma [after 6]. Nothing is impossible, but it’s much more unlikely,” he says.
You can get allergies at any point in your life. But outdoor allergies tend to arrive between ages 4 and 6, McMorris says. Indoor allergies can start as early as age 3, but not always. For instance, “a child can take a while to develop allergies to a pet,” he says.
It may be time for an allergy test if the symptoms seem to be worse when your kid is at home and you have a furry pet.
Also, does your child have eczema? This itchy skin condition often goes hand in hand with allergies. And if your child has eczema and allergies, and he’s younger than 6, “there’s a high probability” he will get asthma, Martinez says.