Seeing your child with another runny nose or non-stop sneezing and wheezing can make any parent feel worried. Often, allergies are the suspected culprit, but you might not be sure if it was something your child inhaled, ate, or touched.

Allergies can severely affect your child’s functioning, development, and emotional wellbeing. Perhaps they have to stay indoors during pollen season. Or, you may have to say no to playdates and pets because of their indoor allergies. All of these protective restrictions can make your child feel like their world is limited, which is the last thing you want as a parent.

As one of the most common health conditions, allergies affect one out of three children in the U.S. This chronic disorder starts early in life, impacting a child’s development before they are old enough to go to school. And, more and more parents are dealing with this stress - the prevalence of childhood allergies continues to rise, especially for inhalant allergies.

What are inhalant allergies?

Inhalant allergies occur when allergens enter the body as you breathe in. When a person with sensitive airways inhales these allergens, it creates an inflammatory reaction. Frustrating symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing happen as a result.

This issue is not exclusive to adults. Most people develop inhalant allergy symptoms before age 20, with almost 50% of children showing signs earlier than 6 years old. Allergy symptoms may seem to improve temporarily with physical growth and immune system development. However, in the case of inhalant allergies, the symptoms actually worsen with age.

Inhalant allergies often have a hereditary component. In other words, if you have inhalant allergies, there is a higher probability that your child will also develop the disorder and subsequent symptoms. Even so, some children can still develop inhalant allergies though no other family members are allergic.

Inhalant Allergy Triggers

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust Mites
  • Animal Dander

Common Inhalant Allergy Symptoms in Children

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Runny or clogged nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Attention, learning, and memory problems
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent awakenings at night

Possible Health Consequences

  • Sinus problems
  • Ear infections
  • Asthma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Inhalant allergies and asthma

The presence of an inhalant allergy can cause or worsen asthma attacks. Individuals living with inhalant allergies have high levels of allergy-related antibodies known as IgE, which can activate an inflammatory reaction in the airways, significantly restrict airflow, and then trigger an asthma attack.

The same is true for children. Over 5 million children in the U.S. suffer from inhalant allergies, and more than 6 million suffer from asthma. Children with asthma may feel increased symptoms after exposure to allergens, because of this close linkage. With that information, it’s important to test for and treat both disorders.

Testing for Inhalant Allergies

Early diagnosis and management of inhalant allergies can prevent possible complications and help your child have a healthy and happy childhood. It’s common for a child to be allergic to several dozen allergens, both seasonal and year-round, and determining their sensitivities can help you avoid exposure and choose treatment.

The recommendation for most patients is to have your child undergo intradermal allergy skin testing for prevalent allergens in their environment. This method is substantially more accurate than a blood test, gives fast results, and does not require blood samples. A skin test can be performed during a doctor’s visit, eliminating a need for additional appointments to determine a treatment strategy for your child.

Treating Inhalant Allergies: A Three-Pronged Approach


Avoid exposure to allergens and change the environment to temporarily reduce symptoms.


Take allergy medicine such as a nasal steroid spray or an antihistamine to temporarily block symptoms.


Start desensitization treatment such as allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy) or allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) to gradually reduce the reaction to allergens over time.

Immunotherapy is the most effective treatment as it can permanently reverse allergies and prevent them from progressing. If your child suffers from inhalant allergies or asthma, know that there are treatment options to eliminate symptoms and support their health.