02 February 2010

Does my child have a cold or an allergy?

Here's how to tell whether your child's symptoms are benign or dangerous.


These are signs that your child may have an allergy:

  • Irritated, red, itchy eyes;
  • Repeated sneezing: Children also sneeze when they have colds, but is more commonly associated with allergies;
  • A runny nose, with clear, watery discharge, not thick, yellow and green;
  • So-called allergic shiners, or dark rings under the eyes;
  • So-called clucking - kids with allergies often click on the roofs of their mouths with their tongues;
  • The so-called allergic salute: Kids with allergies develop a habit of frequent, upward rubs with their mouths. This causes the development of an allergic crease, or a line across the bridge of the nose.

In summary, the differences are:

A cold:

  • Usually begins with or is accompanied by a sore throat;
  • Generally doesn’t last more than ten days;
  • Usually occurs during winter months;
  • The child usually complains about the symptoms;
  • Can include a fever;
  • Family members may also be ill;

A seasonal allergy:

  • The symptoms disappear when the child moves from one environment to another, signaling that they’ve moved away from the allergy trigger;
  • The symptoms can be ongoing;
  • Is more serious during spring and summer;
  • There is usually no fever;
  • The child might not complain abut feeling unwell, even though the symptoms are present;
  • Symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, ticklish throat and sneezing are present.

(Health24, updated February 2010)

Read more:
What is a fever?

Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA)


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