One of the most common questions we get from parents of children with allergies is whether their child’s allergies can cause them to develop asthma. The short answer is no; allergies do not cause asthma. The two conditions are connected, so it would be natural to think that one causes the other. Children with allergies are at higher risk for developing asthma. Children of parents who have allergies or asthma are also more likely to develop one or the other; however, it is not a certainty. Many individuals with these risk factors never develop asthma.
On the other hand, roughly 75 percent of children with asthma also have allergies. These allergies can trigger or exacerbate asthma symptoms. Allergies are an over-reaction by the immune system to an otherwise harmless substance, such as dust mites, pet dander, or pollen. When a person with allergies is exposed to an allergen, their body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E, which binds with the allergen. It also stimulates the release of histamine, which is the substance responsible for allergy symptoms that can affect various body systems, including the lungs. This is why so many asthma patients experience an increase in the frequency and duration of asthma symptoms during allergy season.
If your child suffers from asthma, it is important to work with their doctor to determine if they also have allergies and, if so, to identify their particular trigger allergens. Once you determine the triggers, you can help your child avoid exposure. The doctor may also be able to recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications or allergy shots to desensitize your child to their trigger allergens. Of course, asthma symptoms can also be induced by non-allergens, such as exercise or cold air.
If your child has allergies, you should help them avoid their suspected allergy triggers. If over-the-counter medications do not control your child’s symptoms, talk to their doctor about the possibility of prescription medications or immunotherapy. If your child does start exhibiting asthma symptoms, be sure to take them to the doctor for a complete evaluation.