Children who have allergic asthma cough, wheeze, and get short of breath when they breathe in pollen, mold, or other allergy triggers. It’s important to treat the condition so it doesn't lead to other serious health problems.
Kids can avoid their triggers, but they can also take medicines to prevent asthma and allergy symptoms.
If your child has symptoms of allergic asthma, see his pediatrician, an allergist, or a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in asthma treatment. The doctor will write up an asthma action plan. This plan describes which medicines your child should take, how often he should take them, and what to do during an asthma attack.
Children can take most of the same medicines as adults, though they sometimes take lower doses. Doctors prescribe two types of medicines to manage children's asthma symptoms:
- Quick-relief medicines widen the airways to stop asthma attacks when they happen. Some kids use these medicines before they exercise. Albuterol (ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA) is the most common quick-relief medicine.
Long-term controller medicines prevent asthma attacks before they start. They're for kids who get asthma symptoms more than twice a week, nighttime symptoms more than twice a month, or those who’ve been to the hospital for asthma recently. They include:
- Budesonide (Pulmicort)
- Fluticasone (Flovent)
- Montelukast (Singulair)
- Salmeterol (Advair)
Many kids use both types of medicine. They take long-term control medicines every day and carry quick-relief medicines with them in case of an asthma attack.
Though kids often take the same medicines as adults, they can take them in different ways:
- Nebulizer. A machine turns the medicine into a mist your child breathes in through a mask. This approach works even for infants and toddlers.
- Inhaler. Your child presses the device while he takes a breath to release the medicine into his lungs. He can use a tube called a spacer to make it easier to breathe in the medicine.
- Chewable pills. One medicine, montelukast, comes in a form your child can swallow.
Allergy medicines treat symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes. You can buy some of these medicines over the counter. Others need a doctor's prescription.
Antihistamines block the effects of histamine -- a chemical the body releases in response to an allergy trigger, like mold or dust mites. Your child can take these medicines as a syrup, chewable tablet, or nasal spray. Because some antihistamines cause drowsiness, you might want to give them to your child right before bedtime.
What about decongestants to get rid of a stuffy nose? Doctors say these medicines aren’t a good idea for children. If your child needs relief, ask his doctor about treatments that will help.
Immunotherapy makes kids less sensitive to their allergy triggers. This treatment comes as a series of shots, or as tablets that go under your child’s tongue.
Doctors give allergy shots once or twice a week to start and then at longer intervals (every 2 weeks, then once a month). Each shot has a dose of your child's allergy trigger -- like pollen or ragweed -- that gets larger with each shot. After 6 to 12 months on this treatment, children shouldn't react as strongly to their trigger.
Other Ways to Prevent Allergic Asthma
You can try a few other ways to prevent allergy and asthma symptoms in your child:
- Dust and vacuum your home often to get rid of dust, pollen, and pet dander.
- Wash your child's sheets and blankets in hot water at least once a week.
- Clean up any mold that's collected in damp areas of your home, like the bathroom.
- If your child is allergic to pollen, keep him indoors with the windows closed on days when the pollen count is high.
- Get him a flu shot at the start of each fall.