Asthma and Allergies

The pediatricians at Columbia Pediatrics in Long Beach, CA can help children and their parents learn to manage and live with allergies and asthma. These conditions should not stop children from participating in any school, sports or other activities when managed properly.

Asthma and Allergies Q & A

What are allergies?

An allergy is a hypersensitive immune response to a substance called an allergen. Most allergens are harmless, but there are some that can prove life threatening if not immediately treated. Each person may have a different allergic response to any number of allergens. Substances such as pet dander, mold, insect venom and pollen are common allergens. Some people may even have a reaction to materials like latex, wool, or cotton. The most common forms of allergens can be found in the pollen from plants and flowers, foods and beverages, insect bites or stings, or pet dander. While hay fever is the most commonly known allergy, food allergies are becoming much more prevalent. When a person has an allergic reaction, the body fights the allergen as if it were a pathogen and tries to eliminate it from the system. An acute reaction to an allergen results in anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition which requires immediate emergency care. Allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medications, prescription medicines such as inhalers, or through shots administered by a physician.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease where the airways, or bronchi, of the lungs, are swollen and inflamed. This inflammation makes it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. A person with asthma is often more sensitive to airborne allergens like dust, pollen, or pet dander. When the already irritated airways come into contact with an allergen, they swell, even more, further constricting lung function causing an asthma attack. Asthma affects nearly 26 million Americans, including more than 7 million children.

What do symptoms indicate an allergy or asthma? When should a child be taken to the doctor to check?

Children who cough and sneeze a lot without presenting other symptoms of a cold or those who have stomachaches, cramping or nausea after eating certain foods may have allergies. Difficulty breathing or wheezing could indicate asthma. Early diagnoses of asthma and identification of specific allergies lead to earlier treatment and management which can improve the child’s quality of life. Some of the common allergy symptoms in children include skin rashes or hives, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes, difficulty in breathing, and stomach upsets. Children who present these symptoms should be taken to their pediatrician for an evaluation.

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