7 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Asthma and Allergies


Asthma and allergies are two of the most common chronic diseases in children, and parents often confuse one for the other. While symptoms of asthma and allergies sometimes overlap, it is essential to distinguish between the two.

Children with asthma may be sensitive or allergic to several things, including indoor and outdoor pollens, seasonal or year-round. On the other hand, environmental irritants (pet dander, mold, dust mites, air pollution, bacterial or viral infections, and the like) are generally seasonal and situational.

In the case of allergies, they can cause similar symptoms in adults and children. However, the symptoms tend to be more persistent in children and last longer than in adults.

The most usual symptoms of allergies in children include trouble breathing (dyspnea), wheezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, itchy, watery eyes, vomiting, skin rash, upset stomach, and fatigue.

Allergies are triggered by something that your child is exposed to, including foods, medications, food additives, household products, and conventional vs. organic food.

Here are seven indicators that can help you tell the difference whether your child is having asthma or an allergy attack: 

1. Frequency of Symptoms

In asthma, the symptoms are episodic, with the child having symptoms less than three days a week, on average. This is seen in older children with asthma. While in children of any age, allergies can become chronic symptoms.

2. Severity of Symptoms

In asthma, the child will have moderate to severe symptoms, such as waking up at night or having trouble breathing. On the other hand, allergies will result in milder symptoms and do not disrupt the child’s normal activity.

3. Coughing: Is it wet or dry?

Many patients confuse asthma and allergies because of the persistent coughing associated with both conditions. However, there is a definite difference between the wet and the dry cough. A dry, unproductive cough is typical of asthma. Conversely, an allergy’s wet, pronounced cough is much more characteristic of the condition.

4. Presence of Wheezing

Wheezing is one of the most prevalent symptoms of asthma. However, allergies can also cause wheezing. The wheezing of asthma is a high-pitched, raspy noise, which you can sometimes hear even when the child is not talking. On the other hand, wheezing from allergies is more low-pitched, similar to the noise of your own heavy breathing during exercise.

5. The Affected Throat

Asthma often affects the throat and makes it feel sore and itchy. Allergies, however, cause the throat to feel like it is closing. You can usually hear the difference between the two by asking your child to swallow or take a deep breath. Asthma will cause soreness and an itchy feeling, but not choking.

6. How the Attacks Start

Asthma attacks start with difficulty breathing and coughing but get better with medication or before reaching school or work. In contrast, an allergy attack is much more sudden and severe. Your child may be able to breathe normally one minute and not the next.

7. Between Attacks

During a period of stability, when your child is not having asthma or an allergy attack, they will not have any symptoms. However, during a period of stability, when your child is not having asthma or an allergy attack, they might have symptoms.

For example, asthma will not cause a runny nose when the child is not having an attack. However, allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as a runny nose, is a common allergy symptom.


The key to distinguishing between allergies and asthma is to really take a detailed history of your child’s symptoms. Consult your child’s doctor immediately if you suspect an asthma attack. Asthma is usually treatable with a combination of asthma medications.

Be aware of the different symptoms of asthma and allergies. Either way, if you think your child has asthma or allergies, talk to your doctor immediately.Your Kids Urgent Care

At Your Kids Urgent Care, we provide excellent and convenient children’s urgent care in Vestavia, AL. We act as a bridge between a child’s primary care physician and the Emergency Room. When children fall sick after hours or on holidays, parents should not be forced to choose between going to the ER and doing nothing. If your child needs urgent care, contact us today!

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