Is that runny nose a cold, an allergy, or sinusitus?

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allergyQ. I have a daughter who just started kindergarten and one in preschool. My older daughter has bad allergies, and it seems like all the kids in both girls' schools have runny noses. I'd like some guidelines about allergies and how to recognize a sinus infection versus a cold. a mother and teacher in Charlotte

The cold-allergies question is complex, says a pediatrician and father in Concord. "This is something we struggle with as pediatricians every day," says Dr. Greg Guerriero.

Teachers reluctantly deal with the issue as well, wondering whether their snotty-nosed charges should be at home.

Allergies normally include sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, itchy nose, and nasal mucus that is thicker in the morning and thins as the day goes on, he explains. There is no fever with allergies.

A normal common cold gives you a fever, which is easily treated with Tylenol or Motrin. A cold comes with a runny nose, which also thins and clears as the day goes on, a cough, scratchy throat and mild headache, he says. But nothing itches as with allergies.

"A sinus infection, we are taught, is nasal symptoms greater than 10 days, frontal headache, drainage with bad breath, popping ears, persistent headache, decreased activity and appetite and a fever that may persist past the normal two to three days with the common cold," Guerriero says.

The mucus with a sinus infection tends to stay thick all day. There is no thinning as with allergies or the common cold.

Children should not be in school or day care if they have an active fever above 101 degrees, Guerriero says.

Dr. Laura Jana, a pediatrician and mother of three, operates an educational child-care center in Omaha, Neb.

"I follow the basic principle that if kids were excluded from child care or school for runny noses, they would miss an unrealistically huge number of days," Jana says. "We do not use any criteria for exclusion based on runny noses at my school, but rather on potential accompanying symptoms."

Jana tells her staff and parents that if a child has an illness that makes him or her unable to participate or requires attention beyond what the center is able to provide, then the child cannot attend.

source - Parent to Parent, The Charlotte Observer