August is right around the corner, which means the “back-to-school” season is here!
Parents are shopping for school supplies, children are getting excited to see their friends, and teachers are preparing their rooms for a brand new school year.
Luckily, most things children will need are on a supply checklist. While all of these items set your child up for success, it is also important to be prepared for things that are not included on that list.
The classroom is a small, busy place packed with lots of children. This makes it the perfect environment for the accumulation of dust, food, and germs- all of which contribute to the common cold and allergies.
Oftentimes, children are misdiagnosed because both conditions share symptoms of runny or stuffy nose and sneezing.
As a parent or teacher, it is important to understand the difference between a child showing symptoms of a cold versus allergies. Treatment approaches to these conditions are very different, and to ensure childrens’ safety, it is critical that they are provided with the right care.
Here are a few things that will help you understand the difference between cold and allergy symptoms:
The onset of symptoms
A cold typically takes about three days from the time of infection to begin showing symptoms. Whereas, an allergic reaction immediately begins to show symptoms as soon as contact is made with the triggering allergen.
Triggers can be certain foods, dust, or chemicals in school supplies. As a parent, it is important that the teacher is aware of all allergies within the classroom to ensure a safe and healthy environment.
Duration of symptoms
If it is a case of the common cold, the infection generally lasts no more than five to seven days, with symptoms completely gone in two weeks. If your child is suffering from allergies, symptoms will last as long as he or she is exposed to the allergen. Some people can suffer for weeks or even months.
Types of symptoms
The best way to differentiate the symptoms of colds from allergies is to look for a spiking fever, or body chills and aches. This will tell you that someone is experiencing a cold and not an allergic reaction.
Typical symptoms of allergies include watery, itchy eyes, itchy throat, and wheezing. Believe it or not, mucus can also help clear up any confusion. It sounds off-putting, but there is a significant difference between mucus produced from a cold versus allergies. A cold will produce thick, yellow mucus, whereas someone with allergies will have mucus that appears to be clear.
Timing of symptoms
The time in which symptoms appear can also be an excellent indicator of which condition someone is suffering from. Allergies are most prominent during the spring and fall because allergens like pollen and dust are in the air as the seasons change. Teachers and parents will most often see signs of a cold during the winter months because students spend more time indoors, making it easier for germs to spread.
Now that you know what signs to look for, it is equally important that children are given proper treatment. In the case of a cold, medications like Ibuprofen, decongestants, and other medications should help reduce symptoms – as well as plenty of rest and zinc.
Since colds are contagious, it is crucial that children stay home until they are well to avoid infecting others. If your child is experiencing allergies, it is best to avoid the allergen altogether.
Allergen triggers can be anything, whether a peanut butter and jelly sandwich packed for lunch, or pet hair that lingers on clothes. Any of these could be potentially dangerous for children with allergies, which is why it is crucial that parents inform teachers about any allergies.
Prepare yourself, and children, for the new school year by taking extra precautions. There are numerous ways to have a safe and fun school year that everyone can take part in!