My 21 month old son has had a bad runny nose for the past 2 days. He's been more lethargic than normal, has been eating less than usual, but still has occasional spurts of energetic activity, and also does not have a fever.

I suspect he may have a cold, but the symptoms I've listed are also fairly consistent with allergies too.

How can I tell if the symptoms I'm looking at are signs of a cold?

  • 2
    Your child may or may not have a cold. And an ear infection. Or not. Or... or... You must realize we can't answer this. When in doubt, that's what your primary care provider is for. FWIW, I was great at diagnosing and treating other people's kids, but when it came to my own, I had no objectivity. Parenting is very unnerving! Jun 16, 2023 at 12:42
  • ("He's been more lethargic than normal..." Oh, and btw, there's no normal level of lethargy. If you want to alarm a healthcare provider and guarantee a same day visit, use the word lethargy even just once.) There's "less active than usual", there's "sleeping more than usual", etc. But "lethargy" needs to be seen pronto. Jun 16, 2023 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


How can I tell if the symptoms I'm looking at are signs of a cold?

You can't.

Even for a medical professional, distinguishing the two can be difficult.

If you suspect the symptoms to be more than a mild cold, or if you want to find out whether your child has an allergy, take them to the doctor.

If you are unsure whether a doctor visit is warranted, do not despair - we have a question for that, too :-).

How do you know when it is time to take a child to the Doctor?

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