What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes the airways in the lungs to become inflamed (swell or tighten). The airways are tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When the airways are inflamed, it can be hard for your child to breathe.

What is the connection between asthma and environmental allergies?

For some children, environmental allergies (allergies caused by things outdoors or indoors) can trigger asthma symptoms or make them worse. Environmental allergies can also lead to allergic asthma (asthma triggered by things you breathe in, like pollen or dust).

What are the differences between asthma and allergies?

There are different symptoms for asthma and allergies. Allergies usually affect the eyes, nose and throat. Asthma affects the lungs.

Allergies

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Scratchy throat

Asthma

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing at night
  • Wheezing (whistling sound when breathing in)

I cannot tell if my child has allergy or asthma symptoms. What can I do?

Ask your child’s primary care provider. He can help you figure out which of your child’s symptoms are caused by allergies or asthma. He can also figure out if allergy testing would be helpful for your child.

How do doctors treat asthma and allergies?

Allergies

  • Stay away from allergens (things you know your child is allergic to). If you are not sure what your child is allergic to, ask the care team.
  • Allergy injections (also called allergen immunotherapy) to strengthen your child’s body against his allergens
  • Medications, such as allergy pills or inhalers

Asthma

  • Long-acting inhalers (also called controller inhalers) to manage everyday symptoms
  • Rescue inhalers for emergencies
  • Nebulizer (a machine that delivers asthma medication as a mist that goes deep into the lungs)

How can I keep allergens out of my home?

Dust Mites

  • Remove as much carpeting as possible from your home. If you cannot remove carpeting, vacuum 2-3 times a week.
  • Cover your child’s mattress in a dust-proof cover.
  • Wash bedsheets every week in hot water.
  • Keep no more than 2 stuffed animals in your child’s room at a time. Dust mites can live on the surface of stuffed animals and other soft surfaces.

Pollen

  • When there is a lot of pollen outside, keep windows in the car and in your home closed.
  • When there is a lot of pollen outside, have your child take a bath or shower after coming indoors. Wash his hair to remove any pollen that might have settled there.
  • To remove pollen from clothes, wash your child’s clothes often in hot water.

Pets

  • The easiest way to prevent pet allergies is to not have pets. But this is not always an option for families.
  • Keep your pets out of your child’s bedroom. Close the bedroom door to keep pets out, if needed.
  • Vacuum 2-3 times a week to remove pet hair or dander from the floor and furniture.

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is when a person’s asthma symptoms suddenly and quickly get worse. It becomes very hard for the person to breathe. Sometimes asthma attacks happen without warning. Other times, a person might feel an asthma attack coming on.

If your child has an asthma attack, follow the steps in his Asthma Action Plan. If your child does not have an Asthma Action Plan, ask the care team to create one with you.

Rev. 1/2018. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.