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Is it allergies or the flu?

How can I tell the difference? My baby has a bad cough and runny nose. Is it just allergies or the flu? How can I tell the difference, and when should I take him to the doctor?


Gregory Hutteger | Family Medicine

Gregory Hutteger

The flu, colds and allergies can cause similar symptoms, and finding out which condition your baby has is the first step in getting relief.

Colds are caused by one of more than 200 viruses that get transmitted from person to person. Allergies, which are not contagious, are caused by allergens, such as pollen, that prompt the immune system to overreact.

There are a number of ways to distinguish between spring allergies and a cold. Colds generally evolve, starting with a stuffy nose, throat irritation and low-grade fever, followed by sneezing and a runny nose with thickening mucus that often turns yellow or green.

Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, but the mucus is typically clear.

Allergies are less likely in children less than two years of age so it is possible your infant has a viral infection.  I recommend that your baby is evaluated by your health care provider if symptoms persist.

Read more answers by Dr. Hutteger