Q: What are common signs and symptoms of sleep problems in children with asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or eczema? 

Brian Robertson, MD: Children with many different kinds of allergic conditions have sleep problems. They may cough at night from asthma, stay awake with a stuffy nose due to allergic rhinitis or feel a constant itch from eczema or urticaria (hives).

Symptoms can show up as:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty staying asleep
  • interrupted or poor quality sleep

Poor quality sleep can also lead to hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention during the day.

Children experiencing an asthma flare may have over-inflated lungs during sleep. This occurs when air gets trapped inside the lungs. It can make it more difficult to breathe well during sleep.

Certain asthma medications, including albuterol and oral corticosteroids, have side effects that may cause poor quality sleep.

Q: When should parents consider seeing a specialist for their child’s sleep problems?

Dr. Robertson: Children with poorly controlled asthma, allergic rhinitis or eczema should see an allergist for treatment.

Children who sleep poorly at night, snore or struggle to breathe during sleep should see a specialist.

Children who are inattentive due to poor sleep or have symptoms that suggest Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should also see a specialist.

Brian Robertson, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist and a sleep medicine specialist in Washington, D.C. He has served as chief of allergy and immunology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and as an allergy and immunology consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General.

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