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A runny nose may be a symptom of a cold, allergy, or sinus infection (sinusitis). Occasionally an object in the nose causes the nose to run.
A runny nose from a cold is often accompanied by a low fever, cough, and a scratchy throat. Nasal drainage usually is clear but may change to yellow as the cold goes away. If your child seems to be getting better, the color of the drainage is not a concern.
Drainage from a runny nose caused by allergies is usually clear. The nose may itch so that your child uses the palm of the hand to rub the nose in an upward motion ("allergic salute"). Sneezing and watery eyes may also be present. In addition, your child may have dark circles under the eyes ("allergic shiners").
A runny nose with thick drainage that isn't getting better after 10 days, or thick yellow drainage in a child with a fever, can be a sign of a sinus infection (sinusitis). Sinusitis does not usually occur in children who are younger than age 2 because their sinuses are not fully developed. A small child with a sinus infection may also have a cough that is worse at night.
Last Revised: January 10, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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