Across the US, we are knee deep in allergy season. While a bit of mild sneezing or itchy eyes might be no big deal, for some children seasonal allergies are brutal. Recognizing the difference between allergies and the common cold can be tricky, and knowing when and what allergy medication to give can be even more confusing. We’ve outlined a few tips to make allergy season a bit easier on parents.

Allergies or common cold? Here’s the difference:

  • Allergies do not cause fever.
  • Itchy eyes on both sides that often have eyelid redness and swelling are common with allergies. These eyes almost always come with sneezing!
  • Pink eye from a virus or bacteria often begins on one side only and may or may not be itchy or have associated sneezing.
  • Both allergies and a cold can cause a sore scratchy throat, but the sore throat from allergies lasts weeks longer than a sore throat from a cold.
  • Cold symptoms last 10-14 days, while symptoms from allergies can last weeks or even months.
  • Allergies tend to recur during the same time of year, year after year.


Tips on allergy medications for kids:

  • When using allergy medications, check the label for the expiration date. Expired medications are less effective.
  • Allergy medications are dosed specifically for children. Do not use adult medication to treat a child.
  • Allergy medications need to be used daily for the entire duration of the allergy season.
  • Honey does not treat allergies.
  • Nasal saline spray used several times a day can help with mild allergy symptoms and is safe even in infants.
  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays, such as the brand name Flonase, used once a day helps with both nasal and eye allergy symptoms in children over age 2.
  • Oral antihistamines, which include the brand names Children’s Allegra, Children’s Claritin, and Children’s Zyrtec, are taken by mouth and can also be used in children over age 2.
  • Diphenhydramine, sold under the brand name Benadryl, is no longer recommended as a first choice as it can be quite sedating in some children.
  • Reducing exposure to the pollen by washing hands and face after playing outside can also help.


  • Spring time is allergy season, but there are still plenty of colds going around.
  • The symptoms can be similar between colds and allergies.
  • Treat allergies and colds with different medications.
  • Benadryl is no longer recommended as a first therapy because it can be sedating.



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