Allergic Asthma Program

The Allergic Asthma Program in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provides diagnosis and treatment for babies, children and adolescents who have allergies and asthma.

We treat a wide range of asthma cases, from the mildest to the most severe. We are experts in the treatment of severe asthma, and are able to provide the most advanced forms of treatment, including biologic therapies.

You may be referred to our program if your child has asthma or is having problems with coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness. You may also want to bring your child to see us for a second opinion if your child has already been diagnosed with allergic asthma. For many patients, asthma can have a range of triggers, including exercise, infections and allergens, and we can work to identify and reduce exposure to those triggers.

How we work to diagnose allergic asthma

When young patients come to us with asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing and breathing problems, we work to understand the pattern of these problems, when they occur, in what environments or in response to what triggers, and how they have responded to different medications. We also do a careful examination, including pulmonary function testing, to understand the severity of the breathing problems and to check for other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

If a diagnosis of asthma is made, we take steps to understand the triggers. Asthma attacks can be triggered by

  • Infections, such as colds and sinus infections
  • Allergies to different plant and tree pollens or to molds, pets, dust mites or cockroaches
  • Irritants in the air, such as smoke or chemical fumes from heaters

If allergies are suspected as asthma triggers, we will use skin tests to look for reactions to a wide range of possible allergens.

Most children with asthma have allergies of some type, whether triggering their asthma, seasonal allergies, food allergies or atopic dermatitis.

Your child’s history — an understanding of when the asthma attacks occur and in what environments — combined with the results of the allergen testing, helps us identify the triggers to your child’s asthma.

How we work with patients and families to treat allergic asthma

If your child has allergic asthma, we will work with you to find ways to minimize the allergic triggers. This might be by removing rugs or taking down curtains to reduce the number of dust mites in the home. It might be a recommendation to find a new home for a pet. Or it might be a recommendation to avoid certain activities, such as playing outdoors in fallen leaves or when lawns are being mowed in the neighborhood.

Because allergic triggers cannot be completely eliminated, we will also work with you and your child to find a medication routine that works to keep the asthma under control by reducing the frequency and severity of attacks.

When prescribing treatment with controller medications for asthma, our goal is to find the lowest effective dose of medication that will work to control your child’s asthma. We provide education to family members and providers on how to modify home and care environments to make them safe for your child, and how to administer medication to prevent and respond to asthma attacks.

The range of medications available to control most asthma symptoms includes oral and inhaled anti-inflammatory medications and inhaled bronchodilators that open the airways and relax the muscles that surround them.

For severe cases of asthma that do not respond sufficiently to the standard range of anti-inflammatory medications and as-needed bronchodilators, CHOP’s Allergy and Immunology Asthma Program is one of the few programs that is authorized to deliver biologic therapies to children to treat asthma. In this treatment, your child will come into CHOP every few weeks for an injection of medication and be monitored briefly after the injection. For some patients, there are newer therapies that can even be injected at home with proper training.

We provide special support to families with children who have asthma and food allergies, since poorly controlled asthma increases the risk of poor outcomes from a food allergy reaction.

Members of the Allergic Asthma Program team are on call to answer your questions at all times, including at night when many asthma attacks occur.

The child-parent Asthma Program partnership

The key to controlling your child's asthma is proper treatment and education. In the Allergic Asthma Program, under the Division of Allergy and Immunology at CHOP, we partner with you and your child to bring your child’s asthma under the best possible control.

We believe your child with asthma should be able to play without restrictions, participate in sports, and get a good night's sleep without being bothered by symptoms. Your child should not need to be absent from school because of asthma, and should not need sick visits or treatment in an emergency room or hospitalizations.

To achieve this goal, we will work with you to help you and your child master the key elements of asthma treatment:

  • How to minimize and avoid allergic triggers
  • How and when to give your child medications
  • What to do when your child has asthma symptoms

Why choose CHOP

The medical team of the Allergic Asthma Program is expert in treating asthma of all severities. We have special expertise in treating the most severe cases, and are able to prescribe and administer state-of-the art treatment for these cases.

We support and educate families to provide needed treatment at home and in care and school settings. And we are on call whenever you need our support.

We work closely with other specialty areas at CHOP, especially the Division of Pulmonology and its Asthma Program. We provide coordinated care with pulmonologists and other specialist areas, including endocrinology, gastroenterology (GI) and otolaryngology (ENT), whenever needed and appropriate for your child’s care. In certain cases, your child might be seen in the Pulmonology and Allergy Problematic Asthma (PAPA) Clinic, where a comprehensive evaluation will be completed by two specialists, Pulmonology and Allergy, at the same time.

We also coordinate care with your child’s doctors who are not affiliated with CHOP. We share diagnostic information on your child’s allergens and recommendations for your child’s ongoing care with your local medical team. Just as we are on call for you, we are on call for your child’s local medical team, and work in close partnership with them to ensure your child receives the best possible treatment.