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Asthma Facts and Allergy Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Asthma Facts and Allergy Questions are prepared by the region’s leading asthma specialists at NYU Winthrop Hospital’s acclaimed Asthma Center on Long Island, N.Y.

Can exposure to latex make my asthma worse?

If you have latex sensitivity, the powder in latex gloves can absorb the latex molecules. When the gloves are put on or taken off, high concentrations of the latex particles can be put into the air and cause significant breathing problems.

Is it true that shorthaired dog breeds are better for my asthma and allergies than longhaired dog breeds?

No, that’s a common misconception. People who are allergic to dogs are reacting to proteins in the pet's saliva, dander and urine, not the pet's hair.

What should I do if my child's asthma suddenly gets worse and he/she can't breathe?

Follow your asthma management plan and proceed directly to the nearest emergency room. This will enable your child to be cared for quickly. If your child needs to be hospitalized, you can ask the emergency physician to speak with your physician and make arrangements for transfer to a pediatric facility.

Can my child participate in gym and sporting activities?

One of the goals in asthma management is to allow your child to participate in the normal exercise activities of his age group and health status. Studies have shown that children who exercise regularly, as well as those who do not become overweight, have less problems with their asthma. There may be times, however (e.g., during a respiratory infection or other illness) that your child's asthma symptoms may be more sensitive to exercise triggers and require additional medication.

Cross training and changing exercise environments are examples of alternative measures which can allow a child to continue to exercise without triggering symptoms. Some children require pre-medication for exercise. Speak with your physician. Each asthma plan is individualized for each child.

What is an allergy?

The job of the bodies' immune system is to identify foreign substances (e.g., viruses and bacteria) and get rid of them. Normally this response protects us from dangerous diseases. If you have allergies, you have a supersensitive immune system which reacts to harmless substances like plant pollen, dust mites or animal dander. These substances are called allergens. Your immune system's overreaction is what causes your allergy symptoms.

Who gets allergies?

Supersensitive immune systems tend to run in families. Although no one is born with allergies, you can inherit the tendency to develop them. One thing is true for all allergic people: the more often and more directly you come in contact with an allergen, the more likely you are to develop an allergy to it.

Allergies usually begin to develop in childhood, although they can show up at any age. The most common allergies among infants are food allergies and eczema (patches of dry skin). In older children and adults, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is more common. As some children get older their symptoms decrease, only to reappear later in life.

How do I find out what causes my allergy symptoms?

Try keeping a record of when, where, and under what circumstances your reactions occur. This can be as easy as jotting down notes on a calendar. If the pattern still isn't clear, make an appointment with your physician. Diagnosis of allergies is performed in three stages:

  1. Personal and medical history
  2. Physical examination
  3. Tests to determine your allergies

How can I develop asthma at the age of 45?

Many people do not realize that they may have had asthma symptoms as a child and that asthma can recur as an adult. In addition, many adult related diseases, such as reflux disease, can worsen asthma symptoms.

Will I have to take inhaled steroids if I have moderate asthma, and are inhaled steroids as harmful as oral steroids?

Inhaled steroids are actually the drug of choice for moderate asthma. There is minimal systemic absorption with inhaled steroids and, therefore, minimal side effects compared to oral steroids.

Why do happy as well as sad feelings affect my asthma?

Asthma, as well as the feeling of breathlessness in general, can be affected by our emotions. Anxiety, for example, can often make one feel short of breath.