Home > Kids > Children's General Health > Colds and Flu > Colds, Allergies, and Asthma: How Do You Tell Which Is Which?
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Colds, Allergies, and Asthma: How Do You Tell Which Is Which?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: How can I tell if my four-and-a-half-year-old has a cold, allergies, or asthma?

A: It can be difficult to sort these diagnoses out, particularly in the winter. Most children this age have three to six colds over the winter, with symptoms lasting one to two weeks for each cold. The symptoms of a cold usually start with a runny nose that lasts five to seven days and possibly a low-grade fever. The cough usually starts a day or two after the runny nose, and can continue for up to two weeks. Once the cold is over, however, there should be no symptoms, at least until she gets her next cold, which may only be a few weeks away.

With allergies, children usually have a runny nose that does not seem to wax and wane, as a cold does. The runny nose is more constant, with thin clear drainage. Children may have frequent sneezing as well. Some children with allergies will not have a runny nose, however, and may just have nasal stuffiness.

Asthma can be related to allergies, and while children typically wheeze as the manifestation of their asthma, some kids will only cough. If the symptoms of cough only occur with exercise, that is another warning sign that there may be some asthma. Coughing that is more prominent at night is also suggestive of asthma. The other thing to remember is that asthma is also a familial disease. If one parent or sibling in a family has asthma, eczema, or hayfever, then that child is more likely to have asthma.

If your child's symptoms do not seem to resolve completely between episodes, then I would be concerned that there is more than a cold. Talk with your child's doctor if this is true or you feel that she has signs of allergies or asthma, as effective treatments and preventive measures are readily available.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

highlights

10 Nut-Free Lunch Ideas
Packing nut-free school lunches can be tricky! If your child has a nut allergy or his school has banned peanut butter, try these tasty and safe nut-free lunches.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

Top 12 Fundraising Ideas
Need some new ideas for raising big money for your child’s school or team? Check out the best school fundraisers, suggested and reviewed by parents like you!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks