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Allergy or Cold? Ohio Expert Offers Tips to Help Parents



March 28, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - There's plenty of sniffling and sneezing this time of year in the Buckeye State, but for a parent sitting by a child's bedside it's not always easy to figure out whether it's a cold or seasonal allergies that's causing their little one to suffer. Allergist Dr. Karl Von Tiehl with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center says a misdiagnosis can lead to using the wrong medication, one that does not help to treat the symptoms.

"It's critical to understand what's going on with your child before you treat it. Knowing the diagnosis first completely dictates the management of that child."

Dr. Von Tiehl has a good tip to distinguish between allergies and the common cold.

"Allergies tend to cause nasal and ocular itch, so if the child is constantly rubbing on their nose and eyes, there's a much greater chance it's an allergy, as opposed to viral infection."

According to Dr. Von Tiehl, without the proper diagnosis, the real problem can stay untreated and potentially lead to worse conditions, such as ear or sinus infections.

"Many times allergy isn't even thought of by the parent or even the pediatrician, until the child has had multiple summer-time colds, and/or the child has needed multiple rounds of antibiotics."

The doctor says seasonal allergies are especially hard to cope with for those with asthma. And he says identifying allergenic triggers for bad asthmatics is absolutely critical to their management.

"That's so that they don't have exacerbations of their asthma related to environmental exposures, and so that perhaps the idea of allergy shots could be entertained to limit the need of ongoing medication in those children."

Dr. Von Tiehl says seasonal allergy symptoms can be easily treated with over-the-counter medication such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra. He says children with colds should drink plenty of fluids, get rest and use Tylenol or other medications for fever or aches. And he says if you are not sure whether your child has allergies or a cold, you should contact a primary care physician.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH