Oftentimes people confuse having seasonal allergies and having a cold. An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that's harmless to most people. But when someone has an allergy, the body's immune system treats the substance as an invader and reacts inappropriately. This reaction can result in symptoms that range anywhere from a small annoyance like a running nose and itching eyes, to a potentially dangerous situation like throat swelling. A cold is a virus that will — and should — make most people's immune systems attack it, causing symptoms.
Allergies are often hereditary. But a few kids have allergies even if no family members are allergic. A child who is allergic to one substance is likely to be allergic to others as well.
How do you know if your child has allergies?
If your child develops a "cold" at the same time every year, seasonal allergies might be to blame. Allergy symptoms, which usually come on suddenly and last as long as a person is exposed to a particular allergen, can include:
- Itchy nose and/or throat
- Nasal congestion
- Clear, runny nose
These symptoms often come with itchy, watery and/or red eyes. If your child has wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to these symptoms, the allergy may have progressed to asthma.
If you suspect your child could have allergies, it's best to talk to your pediatrician. They can make recommendations on different medicines or even further testing with a specialist should the allergies be serious.
For more information on allergies and other topics, visit the "Seasonal Allergy (Hay Fever)" section of the SSM Cardinal Glennon's KidsHealth Library.
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