Allergy and asthma are often talked about together. But you may wonder what they have in common besides causing discomfort. The answer is quite a lot. Both asthma and allergy may occur together, and the allergens that trigger hay fever symptoms, including dust mites, pollen, and pet dander, can also cause asthma. 

In certain individuals, food or skin allergies cause asthma symptoms, which is known as allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma. About 80% of individuals with asthma also suffer from allergic respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis or sinusitis.

Besides, allergies play a vital role in controlling and managing asthma. According to Asthma Canada seasonal allergies worsen asthma and may even work as a risk factor in developing it. And effective treatment of seasonal allergies can help prevent the development of asthma or reduce its symptoms.

So, if you have either of them, you may benefit from understanding how they are related. It will also help you limit the exposure to allergens that trigger your symptoms.

What is an Allergy?

Your immune system protects you from potentially harmful substances. An allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to a harmless substance. These substances that trigger an allergic reaction are known as allergens. Some examples include pollens, medications, bug bites, food items, and dust.

Some common types of allergies are:

  • Dermatitis
  • Hay fever
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Allergic asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a long-standing inflammatory condition that narrows your airways and make it difficult for you to breathe. In some instances, your airways also produce excess secretions (mucus) that block your airways. So, a person with asthma may feel the tightness of the chest, fatigue, and produce whistling sound while exhaling.

Some Important facts about Asthma you need to know.

How Are They Linked?

Both asthma and allergies are linked by a common airway. They both block the free passage of air between the lungs and nose and affect your breathing.

But with allergies, the obstruction usually takes place in the upper airways, affecting the lining of the nose. Sneezing aids in clearing mucus in your upper airways.

However, with asthma, breathlessness, and wheezing are caused by the narrowing of your smaller airways (bronchioles). Inflammation of these airways increases the mucus production, worsening the obstruction. A dry cough helps in clearing the mucus.

Besides, an allergic reaction of the lungs can result in asthma. So, if you have either of the conditions, it is essential to address them immediately. 

Allergic Asthma

Allergic asthma is a type of asthma that is caused by certain triggers, such as mold or pet dander. These allergens trigger your immune system, which affects the lungs and makes it harder to breathe.  

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology allergic asthma is the most common asthma type. In allergic asthma, a flare-up could be fatal. So, if you notice that your asthma worsens in a particular environment, you can talk to your doctor and take their help to understand the trigger.

Symptoms

The symptoms of allergic asthma are similar to that of regular asthma. Some of them are:

  • Coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

If you have skin allergies or hay fee, you might also have the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Itchy eyes
  • Congestion

If the allergen enters through your mouth, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Swollen tongue or face
  • Swollen throat, mouth, or lips
  • Hives
  • Tingly mouth

Read more about Asthma Signs and Symptoms here.

Causes

As we understood before, allergic asthma is a condition where you face breathlessness from inhaling allergens. It is caused when the immune system overreacts to a substance that causes your airways to swell as a part of an allergic reaction.

Some common causes (allergens) are:

  • Dust mites
  • Air pollution
  • Chemical fumes
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Strong odors such as perfumes and scented lotions

Less common allergens include:

  • Milk
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Cockroaches
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

While asthmatic reactions to these allergens are not common, they may cause a more severe reaction.

Risk Factors

While anyone can get allergic asthma, the mentioned factors increase your risk:

  • Have a family history of allergy
  • Have a family history of allergic asthma
  • Have other allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis or allergic sinusitis

Effects

In addition to breathing difficulty, allergic asthma may have severe complications, such as anaphylaxis. Some common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Facial or mouth swelling
  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Fainting
  • Slurred speech
  • Hives
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal congestion

If left unattended, anaphylaxis may be life-threatening. It may result in weakness, rapid pulse, pulmonary arrest, abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrest.

Prevention

It may not be possible to avoid allergens, but limiting your exposure will help prevent flare-ups and manage your condition. For instance, if you are allergic to pet dander, you should avoid coming in contact with pets known to trigger allergic reactions.

If you are allergic to dust mites, you can take the following precautions:

  • Using allergen-proof coverings for pillow and bed. They will help to keep dust mites, which trigger an allergic reaction, away from your bed.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter aids in reducing the amount of dust present while cleaning.
  • Washing toys, especially stuffed ones, and clothes regularly to keep the dust to a minimum. You can also dust with damp rags to reduce the dust in the air.
  • Washing your bedding regularly with high-temperature water as it aids in the removal of dust mites along with other potential allergens.
  • Keeping your home mold-free and clean aids in reducing the potential triggers for asthma.

Read more about Asthma Guidelines here.

Remedies

If you have asthma, you may know that there is no cure for it. But the good news is that various medical treatment options can treat asthma symptoms as well as prevent allergic reactions.

Your doctor may also prescribe medicines to reduce airway irritation during a flare-up and also to prevent airway inflammation and asthma symptoms in the long run.

Some commonly used treatment options include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids: They reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Short-acting inhalers: These medicines quickly open your airways, helping you to breathe more easily. They are also known as rescue inhalers as you can quickly use it when you find it extremely difficult to breathe.
  • Long-acting inhalers: Your doctor will prescribe this medicine to keep your airways open for a longer time.
  • Leukotriene modifiers: These medications reduce the airway swelling and relax your airways, making it easier for you to breathe.
  • Immunotherapy: Your doctor may also advise you immunotherapy to manage allergic asthma. This process exposes your body to small and increasing amounts of triggers or allergens. This exposure will gradually desensitize you to the allergen, and thus there are lesser chances of your immune system reacting to the triggers. Your doctor may prescribe tablets to be dissolved under your tongue or shots for immunotherapy.

Along with these medications, your physician may also prescribe antiallergic medications that reduce the body’s response to an allergen. These drugs are effective in people with asthma having allergy symptoms. While antiallergic medicines will not cure allergic asthma, it lowers the severity of response when exposed to an allergen.

Final Thoughts

Both asthma and allergy share many similar things and are commonly observed together. Allergic asthma is the commonest type of asthma. Allergic asthma may affect your ability to go outdoor or quality of life.

While allergic asthma cannot be cured, limiting your exposure to allergens will prevent flare-ups and manage symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe you medications that enhance your breathing and improve your overall health.

Both allergy and asthma change over time, and you may need to adjust your treatment accordingly. So, work with your doctor, and they will help you with the best treatment option to manage your symptoms.

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