Asthma, Allergies Particularly Risky for Children

Primary Care Physicians Remind Parents How To Keep Children Breathing Well

DAYTON, Ohio (March 8, 2012) –Asthma and allergies affect individuals of all ages, but as with many health conditions, they can take a dramatic toll on children. A 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the asthma death rate has increased by nearly 80 percent since 1980 for children under 19 years old. Spring is fast approaching and before the kids head outside, Premier HealthNet, one of the largest primary care networks in Southwest Ohio, wants to remind parents to be aware of asthma and allergy triggers that are present as the warmer weather arrives.

Asthma is defined as an inflammation of the air passages that can temporarily narrow the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma and more than 50 percent of asthma cases are “allergic-asthma.” Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, affecting more than 2.5 million children under age 18 and is triggered by some kind of allergic reaction.

“People underestimate the seriousness of asthma and the fact that it can be a life-threatening illness,” said Dr. Anessa Alappatt of Fairborn Medical Center, which is part of the Premier HealthNet network. “While allergies and asthma have different symptoms and causes, the two are often related—allergies can intensify an asthma attack.”

The AAFA also states that asthma is a genetic disease—if one parent has asthma, there’s a 1 in 3 chance the child will have it. If both parents suffer from asthma, the likelihood the child has the disease increases significantly to a 7 in 10 chance. Although the development of the asthma cannot be prevented at any age, individuals should avoid triggers that can cause an asthma attack. Some of these potential triggers include allergens, air irritants, sudden changes in weather and respiratory infections, which are the number one asthma trigger for children. Dr. Alappatt continues, “Most people are aware of the dangers of cigarette use, but exposure to secondhand smoke causes up to 26,000 new cases of asthma each year.”

Allergies, on the other hand, are not solely a genetically-acquired disease. The ability to become allergic is an inherited characteristic, however an individual must be exposed to those specific allergens to which there’s a genetically-programmed response. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends parents and teachers take the following proactive steps to prevent allergies in children: avoid items that might carry allergens, including plants and pets, encourage good hand washing after playing outside and vacuum and dust regularly.

Symptoms of an asthma attack can be distinct with chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath. Sometimes the symptoms of asthma may be less distinct such as a nighttime cough or shortness of breath while exercising. Depending on the severity of the asthma, patients may only need a short term inhaler a few times a year, while other patients require daily medications to control their symptoms. 

While asthma symptoms are respiratory-related, seasonal allergy symptoms can be much more varied. Typical symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and throat irritation. While asthma symptoms must be treated with prescription medication, symptoms of seasonal allergies can often be treated with over-the-counter medication, such as antihistamines. Children often suffer from “allergic shiners” which gives the appearance of being overly tired. 

 “There are a lot of medications out there for treating seasonal allergies and patients can always try over-the-counter antihistamines first, then, if symptoms continue or worsen, they should definitely seek care from their primary care physician,” said Alappatt. “Parents should remember to take extra caution when giving their children any over-the-counter medication, including those for allergies, and be mindful of things like age and dosage guidelines and potential side effects.”

Treatment for both asthma and seasonal allergies depends on the patient, therefore parents should consult their child’s primary care physician or pediatrician with questions and concerns about asthma and allergy symptoms. To find a Premier HealthNet primary care physician or pediatrician, visit

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.