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Babies, Allergies, Colds and How to Tell the Difference

Babies, Allergies, Colds and How to Tell the Difference

Spring is in the air! And also pollen...

It’s that time of year again, when buds on flowers and trees swell in the sunshine until, finally, they burst open in a blaze of springtime glory.

In other words, allergy season is here.

Don’t get me wrong. I love spring. Who doesn’t? Even if you love winter, you can still love the spring that follows it.

But what I definitely don’t love are seasonal allergies. Each year around this time, I hear from new moms who all have the same question.

Can babies suffer from seasonal allergies?

Technically, yes, but it’s very rare. Baby allergies are almost always to food, and symptoms usually involve itching in one form or another - hives, eczema, rash, etc. Many new parents in a pediatric allergist’s waiting room were sent there by a dermatologist — allergies very often present as skin conditions. Persistent sneezing and even coughing can indicate an allergy as well.

After their first year, though, kids can develop seasonal allergies. (In fact, this annual affliction can start showing up at almost any age between toddler and adulthood.) Which leads us to the second question I hear from a lot of new parents:

How can you tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

Their respiratory symptoms can seem similar, but in fact, there are some telltale differences.
  • If nasal discharge is watery and clear, it’s more likely to be from an allergy. Mucus that forms as a result of a cold tends to be thicker and even rubbery or hard.
  • A cold will occasionally produce a mild fever in a child (certainly not always), but allergies will never cause a fever. (Despite the name, hay fever is not accompanied by a fever.)
  • Itchiness is usually not associated with a cold (especially itchy skin), but it is strongly associated with allergies.
  • Colds typically clear up in a matter of days, but allergy symptoms can persist for much longer as well as recur.

Of course, this information is only meant to help you recognize the difference between colds and allergies — if your baby or toddler is experiencing these symptoms to the extent that you’re wondering which it is, it’s time for a visit to the pediatrician or family medicine practitioner.

So here’s wishing you a spring filled with possibility and new beginnings… and free of all symptoms of allergies and colds.

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