How To Spot The Difference Between Allergies & Colds In Kids

Look for the clear 11s.

Originally Published: 
baby sneezing in stroller
flickr / Aron M.

If you haven’t figured it out already, you’ll soon realize that mucus is pretty much ever-present when you’re a parent. It’ll be rubbed on your clothes direct from a scrunched up face. Or it’ll travel from little noses, to little fingers, to the couch cushions. And maybe you’ll get them to figure out how to use a tissue, but that’s pretty high-level. Look, they don’t call them snot-nosed kids for nothing. That’s what’s known as truth in advertising.

While you’re battling the nose-flow, it’ll be natural to wonder what the culprit is. Is your kid about to be laid out with a cold? Or are they just reacting to the dust that’s accumulated since you realized that cleaning as a parent is a laughable proposition? Here’s a brief guide to figuring it out.

The Snot Whisperer

That mucus that you’re seeing streaming from your kids cute little nose (which is totally yours BTW) is a major diagnostic tool. You’re not going to be swabbing it and sending it to a lab or anything, but you are going to give it a taste — Kidding! Don’t do that! You actually just want to look at its color.

Clear 11

This is the name for snot that’s just two shiny streams that are running onto their little upper lip. If it’s kind of thin and clear, that’s a pretty good indication that they are suffering from some sort of environmental issue. It could be seasonal allergies, or just coming in from the cold. Either way, you can feel pretty safe it’s not a viral thing.

Green Tracks

When that snot stream turns yellowish green, or straight up green, you’re more likely looking at some kind of infection. And while that infection could be related to a cold, it’s a bit of an imperfect indication. Those slimy trails could indicate any kind of infection rolling through the tubes in their noggin. Any pediatrician should be able to “clear” it up. Puns!

The Allergic Salute

This move occurs when your snotty little critter drags the heel of their palm up their nose while sniffing. It’s vaguely salute-ish, thus the name. But, this has less to do with your kid clearing away snot. They’re also doing it because their nose is itchy. Itchy noses generally mean allergies, or maybe a coke habit. You kid probably does not have the latter.

The Big Differences

There are a couple ways to lock down a solid snot diagnosis. That’s because colds and allergies differ in some very distinct ways.

  • Fevers: Allergies are not accompanied by fevers, but colds often lead to one.
  • Body Aches: These are a big feature of a fevered infection. Not true for allergies.
  • Itchy Eyes And Nose: These symptoms have allergy written all over them. They are very uncommon for colds.
  • Timing And Duration: Colds will often occur in colder months. Allergies can happen all year round but will occur seasonally, like clockwork, during the emergence of specific allergens. Colds also have faster resolution than allergies, which can last for-evuh.

When To Call The Doc

You should get in touch with your pediatrician any time there is a persistent fever that doesn’t resolve in a couple days, or if your kid is having trouble breathing. If you’re concerned about allergies, you can always hook up an allergy screening.

All this said, the best thing to do for these maladies is to give your kid tons of love and affection. In other words, just give in to the snot. It’s a part of your life now.

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