What are allergies?

An “ allergy ” is an exaggerated reaction of your immune system to otherwise harmless substances (allergens from pet dander, pollen , dust mites , and mould ). When your child comes into contact with these allergens, your child’s body confuses them with harmful substances and attacks them by releasing chemicals such as histamine into the body. This histamine causes your child to experience allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, or itchy throat. Allergies are never contagious, but they often run in the family.

Outdoor seasonal allergies versus indoor year-round allergies

Outdoor seasonal allergies describe allergies that can come and go as different plants: trees, grasses, or weeds come into season and release pollen into the air. These allergens can be difficult to manage because it seems like they’re everywhere and they’re difficult to avoid. For kids with seasonal allergies, symptoms fluctuate depending on the pollen released into the air by these plants. The pollen level can vary day to day, depending upon several factors, including the weather. Indoor allergies can occur any time of the year and are caused by allergens, from dust mites , mould spores or pet dander. These allergens can be difficult to manage, especially since they tend to exist in our homes year- round. Since you’re often indoors during winter, your allergies to household allergens from moulds, dust mites, and pet dander can appear to be more active, but in truth indoor allergies can occur all year long.

What are allergy symptoms?

Allergy symptoms happen when your child’s immune system mistakenly attacks a harmless substance like dust or pollen by releasing chemicals such as histamine . These symptoms can be very similar to classic cold symptoms, which is why it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the symptoms of a cold versus allergies.

In general, signs or symptoms of children's allergies may include:

With allergies, nasal discharge is usually thin, clear, and watery.

(often several times in a row) Colds and allergies both cause sneezing.

Symptoms include irritated, red, itchy, or watery eyes.

Dark, swollen bags under the eyes.

Frequent upward rubbing of the nose that can last more than 2 weeks. This rubbing can lead to an “allergic crease” or line at the bridge of the nose.

Can be caused by nasal congestion due to allergies or a cold.

Nasal congestion is a stuffy nose due to swollen nasal passages.

What is a cold?

Although allergies share many of the same symptoms as colds, colds are different. A cold occurs when a virus gets into your child’s body and his or her immune system attacks it—this causes some of the same sneezing and nasal congestion as the symptoms of allergies. But there are some key differences. For one thing, colds are contagious. A child can become infected when someone sneezes, coughs, or touches him or her. Colds and allergies are treated differently, so determining the correct diagnosis will help you to treat appropriately.

Luckily, cold symptoms tend to disappear in 3-14 days. If cold symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, consider contacting your doctor.

Its important to always practice good hygiene with frequent, thorough hand-washing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. It’s the most common way that cold viruses get into your system.

Protect others and stay at home if you're unwell. If you're experiencing cold or flu like symptoms stay home and speak to your doctor.