Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

Summer Symptoms: Is it a Cold, Hay Fever or Asthma?

Hay fever can be easy to confuse with viral infections in children in summer, since both can cause sneezing and a blocked or runny nose. It can be tricky to tell the coughing and wheezing of asthma apart from viral infections and hay fever too. However, there are a few key differences that can help you to recognise them:

Colds and Infections

  • Fever is a clear sign that the problem is an infection. Other symptoms that might indicate a cold or the flu include vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Another clear sign that the cause is an infection is that the symptoms go away within a week or two, and don’t keep coming back. Although children will sometimes catch colds straight after each other, this isn’t very common with viral infections in children in summer.

Hay Fever or Allergies

  • Hay fever often causes red, itchy or watery eyes, in addition to the more cold-like symptoms.
  • The symptoms are usually worse outside, particularly if your child is near the plants that are releasing the pollen.
  • Hay fever is an allergy to pollen, so it will only appear during the spring and summer, when pollen is being released. The symptoms will usually last longer than a cold, but they might only appear when a particular plant is flowering.

Asthma

  • Asthma symptoms are often worse in the morning, at bedtime or after exercise.
  • As with hay fever, the symptoms can also appear when your child comes in contact with specific allergens, but they aren’t always linked with pollen.
  • Asthma is a chronic condition, so the symptoms won’t go away like a cold and they won’t be seasonal like hay fever. Although they can seem to disappear between attacks, you’ll notice your child is often wheezing or coughing throughout the year.

Although it is often possible to tell the difference between asthma, hay fever and viral infections in children in summer, these problems can also happen together. Many children have both hay fever and asthma, and the symptoms of asthma can be exacerbated by colds. If you’re in any doubt about your child’s symptoms, you can always ask your doctor for advice.