Understanding Your Child's Illness

It can be unsettling when a child says, “I don’t feel good.” How do you know if it is a cold, allergies or something more serious?

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a medical expert to care for your little one. By educating yourself on common cold and allergy symptoms, it can help you determine whether or not your child needs to see a doctor or receive treatment at home.

Common Allergy Symptoms

Did you know more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year? There are a variety of ways for an allergic reaction to occur. Allergens can be inhaled into the nose and the lungs, ingested by mouth, absorbed through skin or injected by a needle or insect.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Rashes or hives
  • Stomach cramps or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain, redness or swelling
  • Tongue swelling or throat closing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Loss of breath
  • Lightheadedness

Common Cold Symptoms

Colds are caused by a virus that can spread through the air or close contact with another person. There are millions of cases each year in the U.S., and children are susceptible to having it more than twice a year. Although associated with winter weather, colds are common in any season.

Symptoms of a cold include:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

Treating from Home

For both a cold and allergies, there are a few things you can do to treat your child’s symptoms from your own home.

  • Let them rest. This is key to a faster recovery. Letting them stay in their pajamas, wrapped up in bed for the day, will help them stay comfortable and sleep as much as possible.
  • Give them fluids. Keeping your child hydrated can help ease symptoms. In addition to giving them water, warming up soup or broth can not only help with hydration, but also sooth a sore throat.
  • Look into over-the-counter medications. While you’re at the grocery store picking up water and soup, stop by the medicine aisle where you’ll find drowsy and non-drowsy options to support symptom relief.

When to Call the Doctor

You can evaluate your child’s symptoms in a number of ways, including taking their temperature, listening to their cough or looking for redness in their throat, but to fully understand how they’re feeling, ask them to describe why they’re not feeling well.

Reach out to your doctor if their symptoms seem severe or unusual, last more than 10 days or if your child is younger than 3 months old.

When in doubt, always call your doctor.


Centers for Disease Control
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Sign Up for Health Tips

Get our advice and upcoming events about weight, pain, heart and more.

Find a Physician

Need a physician for your care?