What you should know about allergy-induced asthma

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Allergy is one of the most common causes of asthma.
Allergy is one of the most common causes of asthma.

Allergies manifest in different ways, from rashes, swelling and itching, to anaphylaxis, when the body shuts down completely.

An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific allergen like food, pollen or dust. Where some people may simply respond by sneezing and coughing, others' allergies manifest as asthma.

Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. This is when your airways are especially sensitive to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, mould or pet dander. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, a complex reaction causes the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen when they come in contact with these allergens.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing
  • A whistling noise when you inhale
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

In the case of allergic asthma, these symptoms usually occur after the person has been exposed to allergens such as dust mites, pollen or mould. Some people may also suffer asthma symptoms in response to certain foods.

When is your asthma not an allergic reaction?

While asthma is common, it’s not always caused by an allergen. Other causes of asthma include:

  • Exercise – when your airways react to an intense workout
  • Occupation – when you're exposed to strong fumes in your line of work
  • Weather-induced asthma – when your airways react to cold, dry weather
  • Stress-induced asthma

How is allergy-asthma treated?

There are different treatments for allergies and asthma as two separate conditions, but there are also treatments that work for both:

  • Immunotherapy injections can treat asthma by training your body to respond differently to allergens.
  • Leukotriene modifiers are medications that can treat both allergy and asthma symptoms. Leukotrienes are the chemicals that cause airway muscles to tighten and produce excessive mucus.

Other treatments, such as inhalers, oral corticosteroids and antihistamines can also help control allergies and the subsequent asthma. It’s important to discuss a proper treatment plan with your doctor.

Other tips to manage allergic asthma:

Here are some other practical ways to manage allergic asthma:

  • Know the triggers and try to avoid these as far as possible.
  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is abnormally high.
  • Remove dust in your house and car as often as possible.
  • Control pet dander by keeping pets off your bedding and through regular vacuuming.
  • Choose a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particular air (HEPA)-filter that is more effective at trapping allergens and fine dust particles.
  • Regulate the humidity levels in your house with either a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on your needs.
  • If you use an inhaler, keep this with you especially when you do outdoor exercise, as you never know when you may become short of breath.
  • Take asthma seriously and control symptoms as best you can.

Image credit: iStock

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