You or someone you may know may feel the effects of allergies or asthma, but did you know that the two conditions may be related? Depending on your situation, having asthma and allergies may go hand in hand and the two conditions could interact more than you think.
Knowing how these two conditions share symptoms and a specific relationship can help you identify issues and seek better treatment in the future. Here are some things to know about allergies and asthma.
Allergens may trigger asthma
Although having asthma does not create allergies, allergens (substances that cause an allergic reaction) can often trigger asthma symptoms. At the same time, the body’s immune response during allergic reactions may also lead to an asthma attack. Whether these two conditions interact depends on the type of allergies you have and what types of allergens affect you most. Depending on where you live, allergens can include the following antigens (substances):
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Certain foods (e.g. peanuts, nuts, seafood and shellfish)
Anything that can be inhaled, eaten, touched or injected is a potential allergen, although most antigens that trigger asthma attacks are ingested or inhaled. When allergens or your body’s reaction to them triggers asthmatic symptoms, it is called allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, of the 25 million people in the U.S. who have asthma, about 60 percent have allergic asthma and some may not know it.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explains that you have allergies because your immune system wants to protect you against the perceived threat of allergens. When this happens, your body releases antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). When too much IgE is released, it can create swelling or inflammation in your lungs, leading to an asthma attack.
Tests for allergies may also determine if you have allergic asthma, so ask your doctor to order these tests if you suspect your asthma is acting up due to allergies. Types of allergies that produce symptoms in the nose and airways are typically also the ones that create asthma.
Other asthma triggers
Of course, not every allergy will trigger asthma, and many other triggers contribute to asthma:
- Strong odors (peppers, paint thinner, cleansers)
- Tobacco smoke
- Respiratory infections
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
Anything that irritates your airways could result in an asthma attack, so be on the lookout for potential problems. As for treatments, approved medications for allergies and asthma vary.
Treatments for allergic asthma
Daily pill doses called leukotriene modifiers, which come in several different brands, help your body control the immune response to lessen both allergies and asthma.
Another option is allergy shots or immunotherapy, where your body is repeatedly exposed to small doses of allergens to reduce your immune response. The downside of this type of treatment is you must remain consistent with the shots over a period of three to five years.
Anti-immunoglobulin E therapy comes in the form of certain medications that interfere with the release of IgE in your body to prevent allergic reactions before they happen. This process prevents the airway inflammation that so often causes asthma symptoms.
You can also eliminate triggers in your environment by, for example, buying hypoallergenic sheets and pillowcases, and keeping your living space clean and free of common allergens.
Talk to your doctor about which medication or treatment will help you cope with your symptoms or eliminate them entirely.
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