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FOX Medical Team

Does your child have an allergy or is it a cold?

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ATLANTA -

If you've got kids around the house, they're probably coughing, or sneezing, or nursing a runny nose. It's hard to tell if it's a cold, the flu, or fall allergies.

Kids are usually around other kids. In school, they're being exposed to flu and cold viruses. Then they go outside to play and breathe in ragweed. All of those things can trigger cold-like symptoms. The challenge is sorting out what's causing what.

Lauren Exline, 4, has both allergies and asthma. Between fall allergies, the cold and flu season, this time of year is risky for the McDonough preschooler.

"The first sniffle she gets, the first cough she gets, we're automatically in high alert and stepping up all her asthma medication so that we can hopefully ward off an asthma issue," said Lauren's mother, Lisa Exline.

Lauren gets regular checkups from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory pediatric allergist Karen DeMuth. Sometimes it's hard for her mother Lisa to know if her congestion is fall allergies, or a cold, or something else.

"That is one of the hardest things ever.  It is nearly impossible just to look at nasal symptoms and tell whether that is a cold, a sinus infection, or allergies," said DeMuth.

DeMuth says seasonal allergies tend to involve itching, and sneezing, and watery eyes. A cold is similar, but it can also cause coughing, sore throat and fatigue.
     
For Lauren, allergies are just the beginning.
   
"That ends up turning into a cold, which turns into an asthma attack.  It's never a quick, easy fix," said Lisa.

Over the counter allergy medications can help, but a prescription medication may offer even more relief.

"Which is why as an allergist, we really encourage you, if you know every fall or spring that you have those nasal symptoms, that you get tested to find our if your allergic and then get on a medication that's a lot more effective," said DeMuth.

If your child wheezing or coughing, especially after he or she is active, that can be a sign the child may have asthma. That is something you want to get checked out by your pediatrician. Asthma is very common, and it can be serious, especially when it is not managed carefully.

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