Many people are unable to tell the difference between allergies and conditions like chronic sinusitis. Allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, itchy throat, and tearing eyes, are also seen in other conditions, such as the common cold.   

There are some key differences, though, that can help you know if your child is suffering from an allergy or something like a cold. In this blog, Ulrike Ziegner, MD, at Riviera Allergy Medical Center explains those differences.

Is it a cold or an allergy?


Colds, which are contagious and often febrile, have symptoms that tend to disappear within 7-10 days. Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, and runny nose, all of which can evidence themselves in allergies, too.


Allergies aren’t contagious and are usually not febrile despite the name “hayfever”.  They commonly run in families and usually last longer than colds. With an allergy, your child might itch in mouth or ears, get an upset stomach, cramps, or diarrhea.

What to look out for if you suspect your child has an allergy

If your child has symptoms lasting longer than a week or two or appears to develop a cold at the same time every year, it’s possible that your child might have an allergy. Keeping a symptom diary can provide some insight.

Itchy and watery eyes are a hallmark of allergies. However, your child may experience other symptoms as well. Indoor and outdoor allergens, such as pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander, can cause allergy symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Plugged ears
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Outdoor allergies tend to cause seasonal symptoms. For instance, children allergic to tree pollen can experience symptoms when pollen peaks in the spring. Indoor allergies, like dust, on the other hand, can cause year-round symptoms.

Food allergies

Proteins in food can cause a wide variety of symptoms. If your child is allergic to a specific food, your child may experience:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Skin redness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Eczema flare-ups
  • Shortness of breath
  • Closing up throat
  • Anaphylactic shock

Symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and swelling of the eyes, lips or face, are symptoms of a serious allergic reaction and require immediate medical attention. A food diary can be helpful in pointing your doctor in the right direction when testing for food allergies. Just nine foods are responsible for more than 90% of allergic reactions. Those foods are:

  • Wheat
  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Sesame

Allergy testing

At Riviera Allergy Medical Center, Dr. Ziegner uses various allergy tests to diagnose allergies in adults and children. Skin testing gives fast results that will allow for customized food allergy management

Skin prick tests test several suspected allergens are tested at the same time. A positive skin prick test will result in redness and swelling at the prick site, which will be measured individually. A reaction will typically occur within 20 minutes. Keep in mind that a positive skin prick alone won’t automatically mean that your child is allergic to a specific allergen. Dr. Ziegner may use other information, such as symptoms, medical history or blood tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Allergies can have a significant impact on your child, causing missed school days, irritability, and reduced focus at school. Appropriate testing and treatment can have a dramatic and positive affect on your child’s life. To learn more about allergy testing and treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Riviera Allergy Medical Center today.

Call Us Text Us
Skip to content