Child lies in bed and is blowing her nose.

How to tell if its Allergies or a Cold

Spring and summer bring so many wonderful things, sunshine, warmer weather, beautiful flowers, and the promise of fun in the sun! But for many of us and our kiddos, it can also signal the start of allergy season. If your child has not been diagnosed with seasonal allergies before, it can also be confusing for parents to determine whether they are experiencing a cold or allergies. This is understandable since many of the symptoms overlap! Unfortunately, even though allergies are relatively common, there are a lot of misconceptions! Read on for more information about allergies and helpful ways to determine whether your child’s symptoms are due to allergies or a cold.

What are seasonal allergies?

Allergies develop when the immune system has an overreaction to something. Symptoms develop due to the release of histamine from specialized immune cells. There are many different types of allergies, including allergies to foods, plants, dust, pets, specific materials, etc. Seasonal allergies usually refer to a reaction to various plants, trees, or pollen. Some peak in spring, others in summer/early fall. Indoor allergies refer to allergies to dust, pet dander, etc.

What are the symptoms?

Common seasonal allergy symptoms include watery, itchy eyes, stuffy or runny nose, and sneezing. That being said, other symptoms can occur as well. There is overlap between allergy and cold symptoms with some key differences. The table below is a helpful comparison between cold and allergy symptoms.

How old is your child?

Seasonal allergy symptoms usually start at the earliest between the ages of three and five years. It is not common for symptoms to occur before two years of age since allergies require exposure and sensitization to these seasonal triggers in order to develop an allergy to them. Indoor allergies can start younger, such as at age one. Allergies can also develop in older childhood or adulthood and vary each season and in different regions.


In what settings do symptoms get worse?

If your child suddenly develops a runny nose and sneezing, it can often be tricky to tell whether it is a cold or allergies. However, if symptoms aren’t as significant in the morning and then flare up when playing outside, particularly in areas with lots of grass, flowers, trees, and pollen, that is more indicative of seasonal allergies. Cold symptoms are often worse while lying down and first thing in the morning and evening.

Children running through a field of blossoming trees with parents walking behind them.


How long do the symptoms last?

Cold symptoms typically peak between 3 and 5 days and usually resolve in 7-10 days. Depending on the trigger, seasonal allergy symptoms will wax and wane over a few weeks to months.

Do other family members have allergies?

Often, a family history of certain allergies can increase the risk of children developing them.

So how can you know for sure?

The best way to determine whether your child has seasonal allergies is to talk with their pediatrician. In some cases, they may recommend allergy testing or a trial of an antihistamine.

How are allergies treated?

In most cases, seasonal and indoor allergies can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. One of the better-known antihistamines is Diphenhydramine (Benadryl.) However, this is not the best choice for children as it has side effects like drowsiness and does not have a long duration of action. Talk with your pediatrician about better options for kids, such as loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec). Antihistamines work better if used before symptoms flare up rather than after. So if it is allergy season and your child has allergies, start their medications and give them consistently as directed until peak season has ended. Weather reports often include information about mold and pollen counts during allergy seasons. Depending on symptoms, your healthcare provider may also recommend eye drops and/or a nasal spray like fluticasone (flonase.) Other things that can help are avoiding triggers if they are known, keeping windows and doors shut when at home, showering, or bathing your child after playing outside. In more severe cases or when symptoms do not improve with the methods mentioned above, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots.

Child smiles sitting on a patient exam table with a nurse and mother.

We hope this helps clear up some of the confusion around allergies! Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy Spring and Summer!

More great resources to check out below:

American Academy of Allergies Asthma and Immunology

Seasonal Allergies in Children – AAP


And if it turns out your little one has a cold, check out our home remedies here.


Family relaxing in bed with small dog

Stomach Bug Survival tips

There is no way around it; Stomach bugs are just plain nasty. They are no fun to have and no fun to clean up. Combining the ick of caring for and cleaning up after a child who has a stomach bug with the dread of knowing there is a good chance it will spread through the whole house is enough to cause some serious parental anxiety. Although we can’t take the ick away, here is some basic info about stomach bugs and our top 5 tips to survive the mess and help your little one feel better faster!

Stomach bugs or gastroenteritis, which is the medical term, are typically caused by viruses and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes fever. Most of the time, vomiting starts first and lasts 24-48 hours. Diarrhea usually follows and can last from a few days to a couple of weeks. These viruses are contagious, so handwashing and sanitizing surfaces are key. Most of the time, symptoms can be managed at home, but if vomiting is severe and leads to dehydration or lasts more than 48 hours, you should consult your pediatrician. Check out our post on preventing dehydration in kids here for more tips.


Easier said than done, but keeping your little one hydrated is the key to getting them safely through a stomach bug. Believe it or not, pediatricians do not worry about a child not eating for a few days. They’ll be fine without food for longer than you’d think, but not drinking can lead to life-threatening dehydration. Offer small amounts of clear liquids like Pedialyte or diluted juice (1:1 with water) frequently and watch for signs of dehydration (sunken eyes, dry lips, mouth, decreased tears, fatigue.) Our secret weapon against dehydration is popsicles! They are tasty, and kids like them. Plus, when kids feel thirsty and want to drink too quickly, it can lead to more vomiting. Popsicles naturally slow them down and pace their intake. Pedialyte even makes popsicles with the same electrolyte solution as their drinks. And remember, dehydration can be dangerous, especially for very young children, so if you cannot get your child to drink or they are losing fluids too quickly to keep up with, seek help from your healthcare provider.

Mess management!

A lot of the stress around stomach bugs revolves around the icky mess factor and contagiousness. Does anyone else find cleaning up chunks of puke totally gag-inducing? For young kids, use layers of easy-to-wash fabrics to help with clean up. Layer towels around where they are resting or sleeping, peel off layers and toss them in the wash when dirty. Disposable puppy pads also work great for this or a combination of both! Older kids might be able to aim and use a bucket more effectively, but having towels around the area is still a good idea to catch misses. Have you heard of the glow stick trick? I saw someone share this a while back on social media and thought it was genius. For older kids who can use a bucket, place it next to their bed with a glow stick inside it at night so they can have an easier time seeing it and aiming in the dark!

Minimize spread!

The viruses that cause stomach bugs are notoriously contagious, and even a few viral particles can cause illness. This is why sanitizing well is crucial when cleaning up to avoid spread. Use the hot water wash/sanitize cycle in the wash and bleach for white fabrics. Use a diluted bleach solution for surfaces to most effectively kill the viruses that cause gastroenteritis. Don’t forget to clean with the area well ventilated and preferably distanced from kiddos when using bleach solutions. For more information on how to safely disinfect with bleach read more here. Always wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up, when in close contact with sick family members, or when changing a sick little one’s diaper.


Most kids will not need medication for a stomach bug. However, you may opt to give fever reducers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) if they have a high fever or belly pain. Fever can make them sleepy and uncomfortable, less interested in drinking, and can lead to further dehydration. Occasionally if a child has more severe vomiting (challenging to keep up with intake to maintain hydration), their doctor may prescribe an antinausea medication. We don’t typically treat viral diarrhea in kids. Probiotics may be helpful as they recover so consider an over the counter probiotic or increasing their intake of fermented foods like low sugar yogurt with live cultures.

When to let them eat:

You can often follow your child’s lead regarding whether they are ready to eat. However, as a rule of thumb, avoid reintroducing foods until they are tolerating clear liquids and going at least 2 hours between episodes of vomiting. Then you can let them eat what they want but help them with pacing. They should eat small amounts slowly and then wait to ensure it is tolerated. You don’t have to limit them to a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast). Studies have shown it does not speed up recovery. Instead, avoid highly acidic, spicy, or greasy foods and, otherwise, follow their lead. Some individuals will have transient lactose intolerance after an episode of gastroenteritis due to inflammation impacting the intestinal lining, where the enzyme that digests lactose functions. When this happens, it can cause belly pain and worsen diarrhea. In this case, you may need to eliminate or limit dairy until they fully recover.

Stomach bugs are a real drag, but fortunately, they are usually short-lasting, and kids usually recover quickly! Hopefully, these tips can help you get through a little easier. So try to enjoy the extra cuddles and know you’re not alone. One more hack, if the smells get to you, a dab of peppermint oil under the nose might help if you get the gags cleaning up barf messes!

Two girls lie in the grass holding cups to their ears and mouth.

Common Summer Rashes in Kids

Summer is full of outdoor adventures, lots of water time, and, unfortunately all of this fun can lead to a multitude of skin woes. Here is some info about five common summer rashes in kids, ways to prevent them, and how to treat them. 

Insect bites and stings

Pesky insects can be unwelcome guests during time outdoors, especially the ones that bite or sting! The more common culprits include mosquitos, ticks, and bees or wasps. In most children, these bites and stings can cause itching and pain. However, in some cases, they can cause a severe allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis which can cause symptoms that include hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing and is a medical emergency. If your child has a known allergy to a particular insect bite or sting, make sure to make a plan with your doctor and always carry an epi-pen if it has been prescribed. In addition to causing discomfort, insect bites may also spread certain diseases that can make your child ill, so preventing them as much as possible is a good idea. 

How to prevent it:

  • Avoid sweet-smelling lotions, soaps, and bright clothing if you don’t want to attract insects.
  • Wear long pants/sleeves, hiking socks, and close-toed shoes in areas where ticks and mosquitos are a concern.
  • Insect repellants with DEET up to 30% are safe and effective.

What to do about it:

  • Always do a tick check after time spent outside.
  • Remove stingers and ticks immediately and wash the area with soap, water, or alcohol.
  • Treat inflammation and itch with a cool compress and consider using a soothing topical treatment such as hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.

Poison Ivy/Plant rashes

Depending on where you live, certain plants can cause an uncomfortable, itchy, painful rash due to a substance called Urushiol coming in contact with the skin. These are common and rather unpleasant summer rashes but can happen any time of year if someone comes in contact with the particular plants. The typical plants that cause this are poison ivy, oak, and sumac. 

How to prevent it:

  • The best way to prevent plant rashes is to be familiar with which of these plants are in your area and be able to recognize them.
  • Wearing closed-toed shoes, high socks, and long pants and sleeves is also helpful in preventing skin from coming in contact with the plants.

What to do about it:

  • Remove all of the child’s clothing as the oil can remain and continue to cause symptoms.
  • Bathe your child with soap and water for at least ten minutes to remove residual oil.
  • Discourage scratching and trim nails to avoid causing small openings in the skin that can get infected.
  • Apply a cool compress or a soothing topical treatment such as hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
  • Call your doctor to discuss other treatment options if the rash is severe or does not resolve in a few days.

Heat rash

Heat rash is a common summer or warm weather rash caused by clogged sweat glands and happens most often in babies and young children with smaller sweat ducts and a more challenging time regulating their temperature. It causes small reddish bumps.

How to prevent it:

  • Keep little ones cool by avoiding over-dressing them, choosing light, breathable fabrics, and using fans or AC if needed.
  • If you notice hot spots that are red and sweaty, reposition your baby or adjust clothing to allow air to flow.
  •  Wipe hot, sweaty areas with a cool wash cloth.

What to do about it:

  • Gently wipe down affected areas with a cool wash cloth and leave them open to the air.
  • Do not apply lotions or ointments, as these further clog the sweat ducts and potentially worsen the rash.


Eczema is a chronic itchy rash that causes dry, red, scaly areas of the skin. We often think of cold, dry winter as a time that exacerbates this rash. However, dry air from air-conditioners and irritants like chlorine from swimming pools make this a common summer rash as well.

How to prevent it:

  • Eczema is a chronic condition, but some things can help keep symptoms from flaring.
  • Moisturize liberally and regularly with hypoallergenic, unscented, emollient lotions. Lotions containing colloidal oatmeal have been shown to help eczema.
  • Avoid irritants like scented soaps, lotions, or detergents.
  • Avoid bathing too frequently, but be sure to at least rinse briefly after swimming in pools with chlorine or sweating. 
  • Cool, breathable clothing fabrics are a good choice when possible.

What to do about it:

  • If the above measures don’t prevent an eczema flare, talk to your physician about other treatment options.
  • Many children with eczema may need a steroid cream like hydrocortisone from time to time to manage exacerbations.


Tinea is a rash that is also often called “ringworm.” However, don’t fear, a worm is not the culprit! This common skin infection is caused by a fungus! It’s often called ringworm because the rash can form round or oval spots that become smooth in the center as they grow, leaving a red scaly ring. Similar fungal infections caused by tinea include athlete’s foot and jock itch. Fungal infections are more likely in areas where skin touches or stays damp from sweat but can occur anywhere. 

How to prevent it: 

  • Make sure to change socks and sports gear that is in contact with the skin and gets sweaty frequently to prevent athlete’s foot or jock itch. 
  • Tinea can spread quickly, so treat pets and family members as soon as it is recognized.

What to do about it:

  • Anti-fungal treatment is usually needed to treat tinea.
  • In mild cases, over-the-counter treatment for athletes’ foot or jock itch can be sufficient. It is also important to continue to preventive measures mentioned above that help keep skin dry.
  • Ringworm, however, can be more challenging to treat, and you should talk with your physician about whether you need a prescription anti-fungal medication. 

We hope these tips help you prevent and treat these common summer rashes in kids! Now spray on your insect repellant and head out for a hike! – 12 Common Summertime Skin Rashes

American Academy of Dermatology – 12 Summer Skin Problems You Can Prevent