Telling the difference between a cold and an allergy can be tricky, because the symptoms seem similar: the runny nose, rash, pink eyes or crankiness all can be attributed to a cold or another passing ailment. But they can also mean allergy.
Just don’t look for the classic allergic rash on your infant, that itchy, welt-like hive. It’s relatively rare in infants and tends to be smaller on younger children, as opposed to the larger welt that adults can get. Newborns do get rashes (diaper rash, anyone?), but most rashes (including infant acne) are gone by two or three months of age. This is when allergic rashes first appear.
Babies with allergies tend to rub their eyes frequently, since allergic eyes are itchy. They may exhibit symptoms such as dark circles under their eyes and excessive tearing. Another hint for cold vs. allergy is that colds are more common in the winter, but indoor allergies (think dust mites) can be year-round.
In the upper respiratory tract, a runny nose with cloudy nasal discharge and fever is most likely a cold. But thin, watery nasal discharge may point to an allergy.
One alert: wheezing. If you think your child may be wheezing, look at how he’s breathing. Is he working too hard by sucking in his chest or stomach and flaring his nostrils? If you have any concerns, call your doctor right away.
Babies who have allergies are often prone to respiratory viruses and may take longer to get rid of coughs and colds. If you hear a dry, hacking cough, it can lead to wheezing. Sometimes, coughing and wheezing are a result of asthma.
As always, consult your pediatrician for any questions you have about your child’s health.