Fort Worth, Texas,
13:15 PM

'Does My Child Have a Cold Or Allergies?

Doc Smitty Explains The Difference

Raise your hand if your kid has a runny nose right now. Ok, EVERYONE can put your hands down now.

But, does your child have a cold or allergies?

After all, the mountain cedar pollen count is the highest it's been all season in North Texas and is in the "very high" category for the first time since January 2017. 

We're also in the middle of the cold and flu season

Determining the difference between colds and allergies can be very difficult, but knowing which it is can be helpful for treatment, expectations for how long it should last and for determining if your child is contagious.

Colds are caused by viral infections which are spread from person to person. They can occur year round but are going to be more common in winter months. Symptoms usually last 3 days to 2 weeks but remember that kids can get several colds per year so it’s possible for them to be sick for long periods if they catch a few colds back to back.

Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to allergens. Dust, pollen or molds can all be potential triggers. Allergies can occur year-round depending on what your child is sensitive to. Usually fall and spring are busy allergy seasons but pollen counts were moderate to high many days in December.

So, how can you tell the difference?

Symptoms with a cold usually build up over a few days but allergic symptoms can start quickly after the child is exposed to the substance they are allergic to.

Here are some of the symptoms that can be present and whether they are more likely a cold or allergies:

Symptoms Cold Allergies
Runnny Nose Usually Usually
Fever Sometimes Never
Cough Often Sometimes
Body aches Rarely Never
Itchy Eyes Rarely Often

This time of year, if your child has cold symptoms but also have significant body aches or high fever, you should also consider if they might have flu (because they probably do).

Treatment for colds is treating the symptoms. Nasal saline and suction for babies. Honey for kids over 1. Make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest.

Treatment for allergies should usually start with a long acting antihistamine like Zyrtec or Claritin. If that doesn’t seem to be helping, talk with your doctor.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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