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Allergies and Asthma

The air we breathe is filled with pollen, pol­lutants, and dust. Most children and adults are unaffected by these intruders. For a large number of children, however, these simple contaminants can make life miser­able.

Asthma

One of the surprising facts about asthma is that it is such a common disease. More than 23 million Americans have the condition and more than one-quarter of them are children younger than 18 years. The rates are steadily rising, though no one can state exactly why. There are probably many reasons for the increase. Not only are we learning more about what causes asthma, but we also have more accurate methods of diagnosing the disorder and better ways to treat it, even in very young children.

Asthma may appear at any age; however, between 80% and 90% of children with asthma develop symptoms by age 4 or 5 years. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, symptoms are mild to moderately severe. When the condition is properly managed with medications and environmental measures, most severe, potentially incapacitating flare-ups can be prevented. There are often early warning signs that a child is at risk for developing asthma— eczema starting in the early months, frequent lower respiratory symptoms and problems appearing before the first birthday, and having a family history of asthma.

Asthma: Fables and Facts

Recognizing Asthma

Many children suffer needlessly because those around them aren’t aware of the warning signs of asthma and do not bring the signs to their pediatricians’ attention. Asthma can masquerade for years as chronic or recurrent bronchitis, recurrent pneumonia, chronic cough, or lower respiratory infections. Discuss with your pediatrician the possibility that your child has asthma if he has these masquerading conditions. Also call your pediatrician for an appointment if your child 

  • Wheezes 
  • Coughs regularly, 
    especially at night or with exertion
  • Has a tight feeling in the chest
  • Is often short of breath

Symptoms may not always be there; instead, they may occur occasionally, such as when your child plays energetically, laughs or cries, or sleeps. Perhaps you notice that your child wheezes or coughs when visiting a home in which someone smokes or has a cat. If symptoms come on at particular times, be sure to mention the circumstances to your pediatrician. The more facts your pediatrician has, the easier it is to diagnose asthma and the sooner treatment can start. (Source: healthychildren.org)


Allergies

A child who sneezes or coughs a lot, who frequently develops a rash or hives, or who gets a stomachache, cramps or nausea after eating certain foods may have allergies. Any child may develop allergies, but they are more common in children from families with a history of such reactions.

Early identification of childhood allergies will improve your child’s quality of life, reduce the number of missed school days and help you avoid having to use sick time or vacation days to care for your child.

Your pediatrician will ask whether your child’s symptoms often appear during a particular season of the year, at a certain location, or when your child is around animals, such as cats. Your pediatrician will also ask whether symptoms come on after your child has eaten a particular food. 

Your pediatrician will ask whether other members of the family have hay fever, asthma, or eczema because allergy and asthma run in families. However, even if you can’t recall a single relative who sneezes and wheezes, your doctor will not discount allergy and asthma in your child because, like many disorders, they can appear with no prior family history. (Source: healthychildren.org)

American Academy of Pediatrics: Allergy Tips
Seasonal Allergies: Nip Them in the Bed

English: Food Allergies in Children
Español: Las alergias a los alimentos en los niños

English: Kids Health: Seasonal Allergies (Hay Fever)
Español: Alergia estacional (fiebre del heno)

Common Allergens

  • Outdoors: tree pollen, plant pollen, insect bites or stings
  • Indoors: pet or animal hair or fur, dust mites, mold
  • Irritants: cigarette smoke, perfume, car exhaust 
  • Foods: peanuts, eggs, milk, and milk products

(Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology)