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Health Team

Springtime allergies can trigger asthma attacks in children

Posted April 11, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2012 9:21 p.m. EDT

pollen

— While most people welcome spring after winter, allergy sufferers often dread the sneezing, congestion and watery, itchy eyes that come when everything's in bloom. For children with allergies who also suffer from asthma, the spring season can be life-threatening.

But with the right medications and proper medical monitoring, children can stay on playgrounds with their friends without inviting an asthma attack.

Ajah Hodge, 12, loves to play outdoors, but asthma requires her to take extra steps during pollen season.

She tests her airways daily with a peak flow meter, takes medication and uses her asthma inhaler.

"It's really been a whole life experience for me," Ajah said.

About a month ago, despite all the precautions she takes, Ajah had a surprise asthma attack during an outdoor gym class.

"(I was) feeling like my chest was just tightening up. I was about to pass out," she said. 

She was rushed to WakeMed for emergency care.

Pediatrician Dr. Karen Chilton said asthma attacks are most common in the spring and fall, when tree pollen is in the air.

"We see lots of kids with asthma year-round, but typically fall through spring," Chilton said.

She added that children who suffer from both allergies and asthma may benefit from daily allergy medications, such as cetirizine.

"If they're needing to use their rescue inhaler, their albuterol, more than twice a week or so, then they may benefit from a daily medicine," Chilton said.

Ajah takes cetirizine pills twice a day during pollen seasons. Combined with her asthma medications, she doesn't have to miss out on playing outdoors.

"I don't want to be the kid who can't play or do anything because she has asthma," Ajah said.