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Allergy Treatment Imperative in Preventing and Treating Asthma in Kids

little boy blowing his nose in a field

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Key Takeaways

  • Millions of children in the US are affected by allergies and/or asthma.
  • Treating and monitoring allergy symptoms can help to prevent and treat asthma, doctors say.
  • If you think your child might have allergies, ask your pediatrician about testing.

Allergies and asthma are among the most common health issues affecting kids in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey found that 5.2 million kids reported hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and 7.1 million kids reported respiratory allergies. Asthma affects approximately 6 million children. 

Even if your child only has mild allergy symptoms (which may include a runny or congested nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and itchy skin or hives), experts say it’s important to be vigilant about treatment and monitoring. Not only to relieve the discomfort but because allergies and asthma often occur together. 

The Link Between Allergies and Asthma 

Having an allergic condition like hay fever is one of the main risk factors for developing asthma, says the American Lung Association.

“Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma and affects almost two-thirds of people who have asthma,” says board-certified licensed family physician Monique May, MD, who is on the Medical Advisory Board at Aeroflow Sleep.

Untreated allergies can make asthma worse by causing inflammation in the lungs that can lead to an asthma attack, Dr. May explains. The same allergens that trigger allergy flares—like dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander—can also trigger an asthma attack. 

Robert Giusti, MD

There is definitely a link between seasonal allergies and poor asthma control so it’s helpful to know what allergens your child is allergic to.

— Robert Giusti, MD

While seasonal allergies are not life-threatening, they certainly can negatively impact quality of life, Dr. May says. Poor sleep, poor concentration and academic performance, irritability, and increased risk for ear or sinus infections can all result from untreated allergies. 

In one study, kids with asthma reported that uncontrolled allergies interfered with their sleep, concentration at school, enjoyment of social activities, and participation in sports. Kids with asthma may be more likely to wake up during the night with symptoms and require more meds to control their asthma. 

What Allergens Affect Your Child? 

“There is definitely a link between seasonal allergies and poor asthma control so it’s helpful to know what allergens your child is allergic to,” says Robert Giusti, MD, pediatric pulmonologist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health.

During the warmer months, kids are naturally spending more time outdoors—a welcome change from being cooped up indoors during winter (and, of course, in accordance with COVID-19 stay-at-home rules). But there’s more pollen in the air at this time, Dr. Giusti explains. Spring tends to cause an increase in environmental pollen from flowering trees, and summer has a significant increase in grass allergens, such as ragweed. 

During fall and winter, people with asthma tend to suffer most, Dr. Giusti adds, due to the cooler temperatures and exposure to many cold viruses. But asthma can flare up during any season, so if your child has both allergies and asthma, it's imperative to treat their allergies throughout the year to stop their asthma from worsening. 

Managing Your Child’s Allergies 

If you think your child might have allergies, Dr. Giusti recommends talking to your pediatrician about blood testing or referral to an allergist for skin prick testing. 

Kids can be treated for allergies the same way adults are, says Dr. May. First of all, it's crucial to prevent or minimize allergen exposure, such as by removing dust and dander-trapping carpets and rugs from your home.

If your child is allergic to pet dander and you have a fur baby at home, it's a little more difficult. It you can't get rid of your pet, keep it out of your child's bedroom. When pollen is a trigger, have your kid change clothes and shower when they get home for the day. Dr. May also recommends using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which is designed to remove most of the airborne particles that might worsen allergies.

Monique May, MD

By making allergy management a priority from a young age, parents can teach their children how to recognize when they need help and make them partners in their own healthcare.

— Monique May, MD

As for medications, children can take age-appropriate antihistamines, nasal steroids, and leukotriene inhibitors, such as montelukast. If they have severe and persistent allergies, asthma, or associated skin rashes such as hives or eczema, they may also be treated with allergy shots over a period of years to help build up their immune system’s response to common triggers.

"By making allergy management a priority from a young age, parents can teach their children how to recognize when they need help and make them partners in their own healthcare," Dr. May says. 

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Allergies and hay fever. Updated March 1, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma in children. Updated May 10, 2018.

  3. American Lung Association. Asthma risk factors. Updated October 23, 2020. 

  4. Mir E, Panjabi C, Shah A. Impact of allergic rhinitis in school going children. Asia Pac Allergy. 2012;2(2):93. doi:10.5415/apallergy.2012.2.2.93