Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by inflammation in the lung’s airways. This leads to chest pain, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may increase at night, following exercise or after exposure to an environmental allergen.
Rhinitis, also called hay fever, is an inflammation of the membranes that line the nose. Most commonly associated with allergies to pollen, dust, and/or furred animals, its symptoms include sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.
According to a recent study, young children with food allergies are more than twice as likely to develop asthma or rhinitis before age 5, compared to those without food allergies. The risk for respiratory allergies is higher in children who are allergic to milk, egg or peanut. This is also true for children with multiple food allergies. (See Atopic March, below.)
Chronic respiratory symptoms are not thought to be caused by food allergies. When respiratory symptoms occur during allergic reactions to foods, they occur suddenly and usually are not the only symptom. Instead, they appear alongside other symptoms affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body.
People with both asthma and food allergies are at higher risk of experiencing life-threatening anaphylaxis during a food allergy reaction. Research has similarly shown that having a food allergy is linked to having worse asthma symptoms and more hospitalizations from asthma.