Monday, March 30, 2009

Is It a Cold or a Seasonal Allergy: That Is the Question

I was all set to do my "kids are back at school" happy dance this afternoon after the youngest is back at afternoon kindergarten later today, but it looks like that will have to wait for another day or even two.

Yes, it's that time of year again. The trees are budding like crazy, the green shoots are coming up and is that a flower peeking out of the recent Chicago snowstorm? Lots of pollen in the air combined with crazy cold temps and snow has created chaos in my household. Three of us, my food-allergic daughter included, are suffering allergy symptoms and are on allergy meds for the past few weeks now. In my case, I'm fine after the trees finish "budding." The other two have ongoing symptoms all season. Seasonal allergies and asthma often coincide with food allergies, so many of you will have the same problem I'm about to describe.

My daughter appears to be either suffering really bad allergy symptoms or has caught the head cold that's going around. It's now time to experience my yearly dilemma: is it allergies or a "real" cold? Symptoms like stuffiness, sneezing, fatigue are pretty much the same for either a cold or seasonal allergies. Then we've got the whole "Is your throat itchy or scratchy? (A fine distinction, trust me.) "Do you have a fever?" And the dreaded "How do you feel today?"

My daughter is sick of answering these questions as well as experiencing these symptoms. She recently switched to Allegra (the other stuff was making her too sleepy in the a.m.) and seemed fine. But then she was up all last night sneezing with "an itchy throat." Is it a cold or allergies? Up until about an hour ago, I truly had no clue.

I'm right about 50/50 on this question, which means sometimes she is home from school with allergies and sometimes she is sent to school with a cold (which, believing in "health karma" I try very hard not to do. You know, if I don't send my sick kid to school, you won't either. I know it doesn't really work like that but it makes me feel better to think about it that way.)

Today, it looks like I was right about the cold. My daughter is upstairs passed out which would definitely not happen if she were not truly ill. She just doesn't sleep during the day--during the daytime hours, in fact, she resembles Tigger. Extremely bouncy, literally and figuratively.

The "allergy vs. cold" dance is just beginning as allergy season is just now moving into its heyday according to our allergist. And since I'm in Chicago, head cold season lasts pretty much all year long.

It's a game of it looks like guessed correctly that my daughter has a true illness. Or it could be that Allegra doesn't work for her? Or it doesn't work for her AND she has a cold? Or the pollen count is just really, really obnoxious today? I better polish my mother's intuition skills because I'm really going to need them now!


Unknown said...

Interesting that you'd write this today as my peanut allergic DD is goes through the same thing. In fact, each time she gets a cold, out comes the nebulizer as even simple coughs end up making her wheezy - though at this point doesn't have full blown "asthma".

She's at school today, but spent ALL Saturday, sneezing - seriously like 100 times! :-( Then the watery eyes. Then on Sunday, just a very mild 99.7 or so around late afternoon. I've not started her on Claritin yet this year, as she was just fine Friday. So, cold ... allergy .. I have NO idea. :-/

Anonymous said...

We've been going through this for 15 years. Wears a mom out trying to guess which one--even when they're teenagers. They still can't tell sometimes and I can't with my own seasonal challenges. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I have a question, my developmentally delayed 4 year old son has started exhibiting some strange behavior during the day. Primarily, he is extremely grumpy and teary (he says he is crying) in the afternoon (noon to 4pm or so). So far, he has not shown any signs of allergies... but since has had a stuffy nose but no cold for quite a few days, I am wondering if it could be a seasonal allergy. Everything I have read has told me that pollen is the highest in the morning, but I myself have bad seasonal allergies that are the worst in the evening... so I know the time of day can vary for each individual. I guess what I'm asking is if it sounds like I am on the right track. His preschool teachers have been talking to me about the change in his behavior upon arrival at school from the bus, because this is completely new behavior for him (he loved going earlier in the year. I don't think it is a permanent development, or school related (since he was the same over the break), but I don't know what to do to change it. I have emailed his doctor and should be hearing from her soon, but if anyone has any advice for me I'd be appreciative. My son is, so far, unable to tell me when something isn't feeling right... so I am still relying on the guesswork or early Mommy-hood.

Jenny said...

First of all, I have no medical expertise, so please take my comments as such--from one mom to another! :)

However, as a mother for 9 + years, I can tell you that a mom (or dad) just knows when something's not right, so of course you should follow your instincts and have your son checked by his doctor.

You could be right about the cause of grumpiness--my daughter definitely gets grumpier with seasonal allergy symptoms, mainly because she's not feeling good and can't breathe through her nose. You should absolutely get your son checked for allergies, but also if he's had a stuffy nose for days and it's not better, it could also be a sinus/bacterial infection.

My little girl was diagnosed with this yesterday and is now on antibiotics. I just knew something wasn't right, so off we went. Her allergies are probably not the main cause of all her distress these last few weeks, according to her Dr, though they've probably added to the problem.

The problem with allergies/colds is that they look so much alike symptom-wise. But if a child's stuffiness persists or moves to their chest, it's time for the doctor.

Let us know how you and your son make out. Hope he feels better!--Jenny