Allergies and asthma are two different conditions, but there is a relationship between the two. When individuals are allergic to a normally harmless substance, their immune system responds in an exaggerated manner causing a variety of symptoms. Asthma is a condition which causes airway swelling and narrowing, which leads to difficulty breathing. Asthma can be classified as allergic or non-allergic. In allergy induced asthma, symptoms are triggered due to an allergy to one or more substances.
Similarities In Causes Of Asthma And Allergies
Common causes of both allergies and asthma include substances, such as dust mites, mold, and pet dander. These substances are usually harmless, however, in people with allergic asthma or allergies, their immune system responds as if the substances were dangerous.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there also appears to be a genetic connection with both asthma and allergies. Although the specific substance a person is allergic to is usually not inherited, people whose parents have allergies are likely to develop them. Having a family history of asthma is also considered a risk factor for developing the condition.
Symptoms Of Asthma And Allergies
Both allergies and asthma can cause breathing problems. The severity of symptoms varies widely from mild impairment to serious. In some cases, breathing becomes significantly impaired, and the condition is life threatening. Symptoms of both conditions can include the following:
- Wheezing and chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Increased mucus production
While asthma produces respiratory symptoms, allergies can cause a wider array of symptoms. Allergies can also produce symptoms, such as a skin reaction including hives, rashes and itching. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur especially with food allergies. Additional common allergy symptoms include watery eyes, sneezing and a runny or stuffy nose.
Allergy Induced Asthma Symptoms
When a person is allergic to a certain substance, their immune system reacts in a defensive fashion. The immune system wants to protect the body, therefore, it releases antibodies to fight the allergen. The antibodies travel to certain cells, which then release chemicals into the bloodstream including histamine. The histamine causes allergy symptoms, which may involve the skin, respiratory system or the digestive system. In an individual with a certain type of asthma, this response by the immune system also causes asthma symptoms to develop. When a person has this type of asthma, it is referred to as allergy-induced asthma. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, allergy-induced asthma is the most common form of asthma.
Learning ways to prevent allergy symptoms can also prevent asthma exacerbations. It may not be possible to prevent a person from being allergic to a certain substance, but it is possible to reduce the frequency of symptoms.
Common allergens, such as dust mites can be reduced by washing bedding in hot water every week and vacuuming frequently. Mold is also a cause of allergies in some people. Repairing leaks in the bathroom or kitchen pipes and cleaning well may help prevent mold from developing. Since mold is more likely to develop in hot, humid homes, the Mayo Clinic also recommends keeping home temperatures close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Relative humidity in the home should not exceed 50 percent.
Emptying trash daily and using insect proof trash lids may reduce the presence of cockroaches, which is another common allergy trigger.
Treatment And Management Of Asthma And Allergies
Two treatments are available which are intended to prevent allergic responses and allergy-induced asthma exacerbations. One treatment includes a daily medication, which is classified as a leukotriene modifier. It works by reducing the antibodies released during an allergic reaction.
Immunotherapy is also available to treat both conditions. Injections are administered regularly, which contain small amounts of the allergen causing the allergic reaction. The purpose is for the immune system to develop a tolerance to the allergen. When this occurs, allergic reactions will decrease including allergy-induced asthma symptoms.
Both allergy and asthma symptoms can also be treated once symptoms develop. Medications are available, both over the counter and by prescription, which treat just allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, itching eyes and skin rashes. Antihistamines are available in the form of nasal sprays, pills and eye drops and may reduce some allergy symptoms, such as runny nose and itchy eyes. Asthma medication is also available including bronchodilators, which help reduce respiratory symptoms.
Another key component to managing both allergies and asthma is identifying what allergens trigger symptoms and reducing exposure. This may involve keeping a record of when symptoms develop and what an individual was exposed to. It may also include going to an allergist to help identify what a person is allergic to.
Understanding the connection between allergies and asthma is an essential step in developing ways to reduce symptoms of both conditions. To increase the chances of effectively managing their condition, it is important an individual take an active role in their treatment plan. This involves reducing exposures to allergens and determining what treatments are most effective.