Living Normally With Asthma

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

Alex Arifi's shelf of trophies only tells part of his story. This soccer player's biggest opponent is not the other team, but asthma and allergies.

"When I was little, it was pretty bad," says Alex. "I used to have a nebulizer that would be constant."

Today, his asthma has improved, but it's still always there.

"You learn to put controls in place, and you try to keep them safe," says Alex's mother Dana Arifi.

Alex is knowledgeable, but Dr. Paul Ehrlich says many sufferers have a lot to learn, including the signs of allergies. "Children who get repeated infections, have recurrent respiratory infections, these are children that have allergies," he says. Trouble sleeping is another sign.

Dr. Ehrlich says most important is knowing family history, and take steps to avoid exposure when there's a high risk. Finally, he says when it comes to asthma, there's more to worry about than the lungs.

"It's like a balloon," states Dr. Ehrlich. "If you can take care of the balloon itself, but the tube where you blow into it is not in good shape, you're not going to do well."

Alex never leaves home without his emergency kit and he is very careful about what he eats. Armed with those tools, allergies are no match for his will to be a normal kid.

"If I'm stuck with these things," says Alex. "You know, the rest of my life, I'll just deal with them." Spoken like an athlete with the will to win.

The doctor also recommends that women who are breast-feeding who have a family history of allergies should try to avoid highly allergic foods such as eggs, milk, nuts, fish, soy and wheat.