Although two separate conditions, asthma and allergies share many things in common. It is common for allergies and asthma to occur together. In many cases, triggers for allergies can also trigger signs and symptoms of asthma.
Additionally, if your child has food or skin allergies, that can trigger asthma symptoms. This is commonly known as allergic asthma or allergy induced asthma.
If you think your child has asthma or are concerned about your child’s allergies, please contact our office.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it difficult for air to pass through your lungs properly. It can start at any age. Nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, 7 million of them being children. Unfortunately, there is no cure of asthma. However, with proper management, people living with asthma can live completely normal and healthy lives.
Causes of Asthma
In Asthma, the swollen airways in the lungs become sensitive to certain triggers. When those triggers enter the body, the airways create extra mucus making it difficult to breathe, which leads to asthma attacks, complications, and sometimes death. The key is to understand the triggers that cause asthma. Sometimes, you may not even know you have it until you’re exposed to those triggers. This means the environment you live in is a huge cause and risk factor of asthma. Genetics is also a risk factor for asthma.
You may be wondering if your child has asthma, but unsure if it’s something else. If any of these symptoms occur chronically or only around certain triggers, they may have asthma:
- Tight feeling in the chest
- Shortness of breath
However, it’s very possible a variety of other conditions are causing these symptoms, such as different allergies. Consult with your provider at Pediatrics West about whether or not your child has asthma.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Asthma
Your pediatrician will need to conduct tests to diagnose your child. First, they will ask about symptoms, medical history, experiences, etc., to get a good sense if asthma is a possibility. After that, the most common test is called a Spirometry, in which the pediatrician will use a device to measure the lung’s airflow.
Typically, if your child has the above symptoms, has a parent with asthma, and also has allergies (including skin allergies), your pediatrician will conduct a lung functioning test. After that, your child will be given a trial period of asthma medication, depending on the results, and we’ll have you come in for a follow-up appointment to monitor the outcome.
What are Allergies?
An allergy is when your child’s body reacts to something harmless as though it was harmful to their body. Their immune system reacts by going into defense mode and antibodies attach themselves to whatever is causing the reaction.
There are various different types of allergies and that can vary in severity.
- Rhinitis is allergies that affect the nose including:
- Seasonal Allergies (‘hay fever’)
- Dust or mold allergies
- Pet allergies
- Skin Allergies
- Food Allergies
- Drug Allergies
Symptoms of Allergies
Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms. Some are subtle and can be confused as other conditions, such as a cold. Others can be identified by a pattern of symptoms that follows exposure to the allergen.
Here are some typical symptoms of allergies to watch for in your child:
- Patches of persistent bumps or itchy, red skin
- Hives—intensely itchy skin eruptions that usually last for a few hours and can move from one part of the body to another
- Chronic cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and throat clearing, that last more than a week or two, or develop at about the same time every year
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Nose rubbing, sniffling, sneezing, or drippy nose
- Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth and throat
- Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and other respiratory symptoms
- Unexplained bouts of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and other intestinal symptoms.
Diagnosis of Allergies
An allergy is when your child’s body reacts to something harmless as though it was harmful to their body. Their immune system reacts by going into defense mode and antibodies attach Diagnosis of allergies involve deciding whether your child’s symptoms are caused by an allergy and, if so, determining what triggers the allergy as accurately as possible. The diagnosis will target the appropriate treatment or clinical intervention to allow avoidance of the allergic trigger that will help to eliminate or minimize symptoms.
Diagnosis may include a combination of approaches and tests, such as skin-pricks and blood tests to identify and confirm a diagnosis.
Control of Symptoms
Treatments to control the symptoms can be self-administered and do not necessarily need to be based on an accurate diagnosis. Examples include the use of over the counter medications such as antihistamine creams and steroid creams for eczema and antihistamine pills for nasal symptoms that include rhinitis. More serious conditions can be treated with inhalers for asthma, skin creams for eczema, and auto injectors for anaphylaxis resulting from, among other causes, insect bites, without having identified whether the condition is truly an allergy.
This approach is used mainly for allergies caused by food, drugs, venom, latex and animal dander. This can also include occupational allergies, and to a lesser extent, depending on the suspected cause, asthma, rhinitis and eczema. When using allergen avoidance, it is important to know that there may be interactions resulting from cross reactions. For example, cross reactions between latex and fruits and vegetables as well as tree pollen and fresh fruits. While it may appear simple, avoiding allergens may be difficult to achieve, costly, and may not be completely successful.
This approach is often part of an individual’s emergency self-treatment plan for acute attacks, such as for acute tongue swelling or anaphylaxis that can result from consuming peanuts or insect bites. (Read more about insect bite care on our Blog.)
By administering an allergen either via beneath the skin (subcutaneous) injection or under the tongue (sublingual) an allergist or immunologist can try to reintroduce a patient’s immunological tolerance to a particular allergen. These procedures are typically used to treat allergies caused by pollen rhinitis, venom, asthma and cat allergy. On occasion, the use of drugs to desensitize a patient to a particular allergen can also be used.
Doctor’s Blog: Your resource for answers and education
We know parents sometimes turn to the Internet for answers. We hope you’ll find our blog a helpful resource for every step of your child’s journey.