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Behavior in Children With Asthma & Allergies

by Joann MacDonald

About 15 million Americans have asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Almost 5 million of those affected are younger than 18 years of age. Children suffering with asthma and other allergies often have to deal with hospital visits, interrupted sleep, and managing school and sports activities. With all of these challenges, a parent of a child with allergies might well wonder how their child's behavior compares to that of their peers. Experts say a connection exists between asthma and undesirable behavior in children.

Behavioral Issues

According to researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, children with asthma might have more difficulty finishing tasks and socializing with other children compared to their peers. Researchers surveyed parents of 1,619 children entering kindergarten about their child's social skills, task orientation and asthma symptoms. About 15 percent of the parents noted that their kids had symptoms of asthma. Overall, kids who displayed symptoms more than twice a week had more problems interacting with others. They also had more difficulty concentrating and completing tasks. One in five children with persistent asthma had behavioral issues, including shyness or a tendency to fight with other children.

At High Risk

Another study from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that kids with asthma have higher rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and missed school days. Researchers noted that a correlation exists between the severity of the asthma and the rates of behavioral problems -- the worse the asthma symptoms, the more likely kids were to experience behavior issues. Researchers concluded that children with asthma are at higher risk for developmental, emotional and behavioral problems. More than 10 percent of asthmatic children had problems that lasted more than a year and required treatment or counseling.

Behavior Management

Following your child's doctor-recommended asthma or allergy management plan is the first step toward addressing your child's behavior. Ensure that he takes his prescribed medicines regularly. Effective management of symptoms could mean fewer missed school days and and fewer behavioral and academic problems. If your child has difficulty making friends, seems anxious, has trouble concentrating or fights with other kids, talk to his doctor about a plan that will address his physical and mental health.

Life Goes On

According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, children shouldn't be sent home from school with minor allergy or asthma symptoms such as coughing. Children might sometimes use their asthma or allergy symptoms to avoid school or unwanted activities. Ensure that your child's teachers are aware of his issues. Tell them whether your child is regularly kept awake at night because of allergy or asthma symptoms. Note whether side-effects of asthma and allergy medications might affect his behavior or concentration. Encourage your child to join in physical activities when possible. If your child is having difficulty participating in gym class, work with his doctor to alter his asthma treatment plan.

About the Author

Joann MacDonald has been a professional writer for 17 years. She holds a degree in English and a Master of Arts in journalism. For more than 14 years, she was a communications specialist for a large public school system. She has also written for numerous magazines in the Greater Toronto Area. She blogs about thrift store shopping, parenting and vegetarian cooking.

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