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Dr. Scott Sicherer

Why Does Asthma Put a Food-Allergic Child at a Higher Risk of Anaphylaxis?

Q: Why does asthma put a child with food allergies at higher risk of anaphylaxis than other children with food allergies? 

Dr. Sicherer: Asthma is a condition in which the airways narrow, become inflamed and make extra mucus. There are many triggers of asthma including airborne allergens, exercise, infections, smoke, cold air, and others.

Foods that are otherwise tolerated are not likely to be a cause of underlying asthma, but when a food allergen is ingested and causes anaphylaxis, asthma symptoms can result.

It is assumed that people with food allergy who have asthma are more likely to experience severe food-allergic reactions because the airways are already prone to respond with narrowing. Therefore, if you have two people with the same sensitivity to a food allergen, and one has asthma and one does not, the individual with asthma is more likely to cough and wheeze during an allergic reaction. And any reaction that includes wheezing is more severe.

Given the above information, having a food allergy is all the more reason to be sure your child’s asthma is being treated appropriately. There are many good treatments for asthma, including medications, immunotherapy and following advice about avoiding triggers.

Be sure to monitor the asthma symptoms and talk to your doctor about how to keep the asthma under the best possible control.

Dr. Scott Sicherer is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Together with Dr. Hemant Sharma, Associate Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, he writes “The Food Allergy Experts” column in the American Edition of Allergic Living magazine. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.

Send your question to Dr. Scott Sicherer by email.
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