Does your child have a persistent cold? It can be an allergy!!

Allergies can cause symptoms that are very similar to a cold or flu, such as a runny nose, sore throat, or sneezing. They are very different diseases. With a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment children get significant improvement in the quality of life.

What is the difference between the symptoms of a common cold and allergies?
Since the symptoms of common colds and nasal allergies often overlap it is quite common that children with nasal allergies are treated as recurrent infections. Common cold leads to a runny or a stuffy nose, sore throat and cough. Common cold may or may not be associated with fever. Nasal allergies have a runny or a stuffy nose, sneezing and significant nasal itching. It can be associated with watery, red and itchy eyes. Itching is an important sign of allergies which is absent in common colds and other infections. Children with allergies usually are not having fever.

Allergies tend to be more persistent and chronic depending on the allergen leading to the allergy. Sometimes, children with nasal allergies get recurrent viral colds leading to overlapping clinical symptoms.

Why is early identification of allergies important?
Early identification of childhood allergies help in appropriate treatment leading to significant improvement in symptoms. It reduces the missed school days and improves the child’s quality of life. Proper management of allergies also helps in avoiding unnecessary usage of cough syrups and antibiotics.

What are the associated allergies commonly seen with nasal allergies?
People with nasal allergies often have associated eye allergy or allergic conjunctivitis. The would lead to watery, red and itchy eyes. Nasal allergies are often associated with chest allergies also known as asthma. Asthma leads to chronic cough especially post exercise, recurrent wheezing and breathlessness. Atopic eczema is often a commonly associated allergy leading to dry, itchy and red skin. Food allergy can also be an associated problem.

How can the root cause of these allergies be identified?
Respiratory allergies like nasal allergies, eye allergies and asthma are caused by aeroallergens or allergens present in the child’s environment. Common indoor allergens are house dust mites, storage mites, pet dander, insects like cockroaches and indoor molds. Common outdoor allergens are pollen from trees, weeds and grasses. Identification of the allergen requires allergy testing in the form of either a Skin Prick Test or an allergy blood test called ImmunoCap. Skin Prick Test is considered to be the best investigation for identification of the allergen.

If your child has symptoms suggestive of allergies do get in touch with a pediatric pulmonologist/allergist. Pediatric allergy specialists will help in proper diagnosis, identification of culprit allergens, appropriate treatment.

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