Medical Q&As

Asthma - allergy?

My doctor thinks my eight-year-old son has asthma. However I am convinced he doesn't, but he does have an allergic reaction to certain things and if placed in those situations, will have symptoms that are asthmatic e.g. shortness of breath and wheezy. He plays several sports including soccer and swimming. Recently he went to stay with his grandmother where there were carpets and dogs. He got a brutal reaction e.g. shortness of breath and rattley chest. He had to be put on the nebuliser and was given antibiotics and ventolin. He was fine in one day. This doesn't mean he has asthma, does it?

I agree with your doctor. Asthma can happen for a variety of reasons and I believe that it is happening in your sonís case because of exposure to particular allergens. Given the nature of the reaction that occurred when he went to stay with his grandmother, I believe that the house dust mite is the likely culprit that triggers his asthma. Animal dander from the pet dogs is another possible allergen. When your son inhales certain compounds a chain reaction is initiated. The first stage in that process is the development of inflammation in the lining of the breathing tubes in the lungs, which are known as bronchi. The inflammation causes a reduction in the internal diameter of the bronchi, which means that his lungs have to work harder to breathe in a sufficient volume of air with each inspiration. The inflamed bronchi also secrete increasing amounts of mucous, which further clogs up the narrowed bronchi. This twin effect of narrowing of the bronchi coupled with mucous secretion produces the characteristic symptoms that you describe of shortness of breath and wheezing. I donít think that there is any doubt about the diagnosis however; there may be confusion in the use of language. My interpretation of your question is that you believe your son has an allergy yet you have been told that he has asthma. These apparently conflicting diagnoses can be reconciled. My assessment is that your son suffers from asthma as a result of inhaled allergens. I strongly suspect that the house dust mite is the most likely allergen.