Asthma and Allergies FAQ

What triggers asthma?

There are six general categories that are recognized as potential asthma triggers. If we can identify what triggers the child’s asthma and then attempt to eliminate or reduce the exposure to that trigger, you should see a decrease in the number of asthma episodes.

  1. Allergies - Affect about 80-85% of the children who have asthma. Most common allergies are: grass, trees, ragweed, dust mites, mold, cockroaches, dog, cats, and foods such as peanuts, wheat, milk and eggs. Along with reduction and elimination of exposures to these allergens, a child may be treated with a combination of antihistamine medications, allergy shots, nasal sprays and eye drops.
  2. Viral/bacterial Infections – Recurrent bouts of rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, cold, flu,etc.
  3. Weather Change – dramatic changes in weather such as: extra moisture, cold, warm, humidity.
  4. Exercise – Participation in any sport especially outdoors with continuous running, it is important to warm up and cool down.
  5. Emotions – Being really happy or sad/angry about something.
  6. Indoor Pollutants – Cigarette smoke, incense, potpourri, perfume, nail polish, air fresheners, scented candles, fire places smoke, perfumed cosmetics & cleaners, paint.

What is an allergy and how is it treated?

An allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to harmless substances that normally don’t bother most people. Children are more likely to develop allergies if their parents have allergies. People are usually sensitive to more than one substance. The immune system is the body’s defense against invading agents such as bacteria and viruses. In most allergic reactions the immune system is responding to a false alarm. When an allergic person first comes in contact with an allergen, the immune system treats the allergen as an invader. It does this by producing large amounts of antibody’s called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Each IgE is specific to one allergenic substance. The IgE molecule attaches itself to different cells in the body. When the allergen encounters the IgE it attaches to the antibody, then the cell that this antibody is attached to releases powerful inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals move to various parts of the body, like the respiratory system, and cause the symptoms of allergy. These symptoms can be itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose & throat, coughing & postnasal drip, sneezing with runny or clogged nose, allergic shiners. Some people develop asthma as well.

There are 3 approaches to treating allergies; avoidance of the known allergen, medication such as nasal sprays, anti-histamine medicines and eye drops, and lastly allergy shots. One of these strategies or a combination of them can provide varying degrees of relief from allergy symptoms.

Will my child outgrow asthma?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Your child will always have sensitive airways. They may just go through periods of time where they experience no symptoms. If they have non-allergic asthma there is a higher chance for the child to be symptom free when they get older. As the child gets older their airways get bigger and their symptoms may be less severe because their airways are bigger.

Why does my child have to take daily medications for asthma?

The inflammation/swelling of the lining in the airways is a constant physical change that occurs in the asthma lungs. It is the underlying cause of an asthma episode. The inflammation or swelling can be reversed by taking medications everyday to reduce the inflammation. When you decrease the inflammation/swelling, bronchial reactivity decreases which results in less frequent asthma episodes. The full effect of the medication will not be experienced unless the medicine is taken daily as prescribed.

If a child has asthma can they play sports?

Yes. It is important to note that most children with asthma can fully participate in any sport. The child and parents need to follow the doctor’s orders and take the daily medications as prescribed to keep the asthma under control. The child will need to warm up and cool down and may need to pre-medicate with the rescue medications prior to participating in the sport.

If my family moves to a different climate will the asthma get better?

The individual with asthma may be symptom free for a period of time. This is usually during the first couple of months while the body adjusts to a different climate and exposures to different allergens. Once the body’s defense system adjusts to this exposure of different trees, grasses, pollens etc. the allergic response is triggered and the episodes may become worse or better than before. It is important for the child with asthma to live in the environment for 3-4 months prior to moving the entire household, especially if this is the only reason to relocate.