Patient Education


Asthma is a lung disorder characterized by chronic inflammation and constriction of the airways. Symptoms are cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Left untreated, it can be dangerous and can even cause death. Asthma may be triggered by both allergic and non-allergic triggers. An allergist may perform specific tests to diagnose asthma and can identify allergens that cause attacks of asthma. An allergist is familiar with the latest advancements in asthma management.


Childhood Asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a life-long breathing problem and almost 5 million children have asthma. It is caused by swelling and closing of the airways and can make it hard to breathe. If your child has asthma and it’s not treated, it could limit the activities your child can participate in, as well as her ability to feel well and be alert in school.

Because asthma affects your child’s ability to breathe, it’s a serious condition. It can even cause death. That’s why asthma needs to be treated by a doctor and why you need to carefully follow the doctor’s instructions.

Why do my child’s asthma symptoms come and go?

Some things make asthma worse. These are called triggers, because they “trigger” symptoms. Common triggers are:

  • Animal fur or dander
  • Pollen from leaves or weeds
  • Mold

A cold or the flu also can trigger asthma symptoms along with cold air and exercise. (Exercise and playing outside are good for your child, but she might need medicine before exercising.)

What is an asthma attack?

Any time your child has asthma symptoms, it is an attack. Some attacks end quickly. Others are serious. An attack is bad if:

  • The child has trouble breathing, walking, or talking.
  • Lips or fingernails turn blue or gray.
  • Symptoms get worse even after taking medication.

If these things happen, it is an EMERGENCY. Help your child take quick-relief medication and call 9-1-1.



What is Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAX-sis) is a serious allergic reaction that can happen in people who have allergies or asthma, and is caused by a number of normally harmless things called allergens. Most often foods, insect stings, and medicines cause it. Each year, about 40 people die after an anaphylactic reaction to insect stings, and about 100 people die from reactions to food.

Anaphylactic signs (or symptoms) usually do not happen the first time that you are near the allergen. That’s because it can take some time for your body to build up a dislike for the allergen.

Signs of anaphylaxis usually start in 5 to 30 minutes of coming in contact with the allergen. But sometimes symptoms can begin after 1 hour. An anaphylactic reaction can make it hard to breathe, or cause you to pass out. It can even cause death. That’s why anaphylaxis is always an emergency.

It is important to know when anaphylaxis is happening, how to treat it and how to stop it from happening again.

What are the signs of anaphylaxis?

Signs of anaphylaxis usually include several of the following:

  • A red rash, with welts, that usually is itchy.
  • Swollen throat or swollen areas of the body.
  • Wheezing (breathing that sounds like whistling from your chest).
  • Passing out
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • A pale or red color to the face and body.

Anaphylaxis is a dangerous medical emergency that can lead to death. If you think you or your child may be having an anaphylactic reaction, call 9-1-1 to get immediate help.


Food Allergies and Reactions

What are food allergies?

When some people eat certain foods, even a tiny bit, they can have an allergic reaction, such as a rash, runny nose or itchy eyes. Some could even have a more serious reaction that can cause death. That type of reaction is called anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAX-sis).

What are the signs of a food allergy?

Your body could respond in several ways if you are allergic to a certain food:

  • Your skin could become red, itchy or develop a rash.
  • Your nose could become stuffy or itchy, you might start sneezing, or your eyes could itch and develop tears.
  • You might vomit, have stomach cramps or diarrhea.
What are the sign of a dangerous food reaction?

If you have any of the following, call 9-1-1. An anaphylactic reaction moves very quickly and can cause death.

  • Hoarseness, throat tightness, or a lump in your throat.
  • Wheezing, chest tightness or having a hard time breathing.
  • Tingling in the hands or feet lips or scalp
How can I tell if I have food allergies?

If you think you are allergic to a food, an allergist/immunologist will do tests to find out which foods you are allergic to.


Treatment Options

Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy shots contain small amounts of the allergens that you are allergic to. The dose of allergen starts very low and is slowly increased over many weeks. The goal is to increase your immunity (resistance) to the allergens, and to reduce your allergy symptoms.

Allergy shots may help you if you have problems with allergies, such as:

  • Itchy, runny, or stuffy nose (allergic rhinitis)
  • Itchy, watery, or red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Allergy induced asthma
  • A life-threatening reaction to insect stings

our doctor will decide the number of shots you will need. For the first six to nine months, the dose of allergen in each shot is increased each week. This build-up phase can sometimes take longer than nine months. Once you have reached your highest dose, you will be in the “maintenance phase”. In this phase the dose remains the same. You may begin to have fewer symptoms in the first six months of treatment. You will continue to get shots monthly for three to five years. It takes this long to protect you from allergens.

Often associated with allergy shots are redness, swelling, or pain at the site of the injection. These symptoms usually start 20 to 30 minutes after the shot and may not go away until the next day. This is typically well tolerated and expected.

If you have a reaction that is bigger than one and a half inches wide, (half dollar size) you should tell your doctor. A reaction that lasts longer than 24 hours also should be reported to the doctor. Depending on the extent of the reaction, the amount of your next dose may need to be changed.

The benefits of treatment include:

  • You may have less allergy symptoms and be able to reduce the need for allergy medications.
  • You may be sick less often and miss less work or school due to illness.
  • You may begin to feel better in general.
  • Allergy injections may stop your child from forming other allergies.
  • Allergy injections may stop children with allergies from getting asthma.