Patients with asthma are familiar with the wheezing and shortness of breath that accompany an asthma flare-up. But did you know that common allergens, such as pollen and pet dander, may be contributing to your asthma symptoms?
Allergy-induced asthma, also called allergic asthma, occurs when allergens trigger an asthma response in the body that causes the airways to swell. About 60% of people with asthma also have allergy-induced asthma.
Florida Medical Clinic allergist Dr. Sami Nallamshetty explains how asthma and allergies are connected and how certain treatments, such as allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy), can help patients find long-term relief from their symptoms.
What is allergic asthma?
When allergens enter your body, your immune system tries to fend off these harmful substances by releasing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). But when too much IgE is released, it causes inflammation in the airways, leading to wheezing, difficulty breathing, and other asthma symptoms.
Symptoms of Allergy-Induced Asthma
Allergy-induced asthma symptoms will vary from person to person, but they typically include:
- Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Rapid breathing
In addition to these, you may experience common hay fever symptoms, like congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. You may experience these year-round, though they tend to be worse in spring and summer.
Common Asthma Triggers
Asthma is often caused by environmental irritants, which are things that we touch or breathe that trigger an allergic inflammatory response in our bodies. Some of the most common irritants include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds
- Mold spores
- Air pollution
- Cigarette smoke
Food allergies can cause breathing problems as well.
If you’re not sure exactly what you’re allergic to, Dr. Nallamshetty’s office can perform an allergy test. We offer skin prick tests at our office locations to provide patients with results right away. Blood tests may also be used when skin tests can’t be performed.
How Allergy-Induced Asthma is Treated
Many patients find that using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to manage their allergy-induced asthma.
- Allergy shots. Allergy shots, also known as allergy immunotherapy, involve exposing your body to very small amounts of allergens to reduce your sensitivity. Some find that allergy shots can completely eliminate symptoms over time, but they do require regular trips to the doctor’s office. Ask our office if allergy shots would work for you.
- Inhaled asthma medications. You may already have an albuterol rescue inhaler, but our office can prescribe controller asthma medications to prevent your symptoms, such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids, if necessary.
- Antihistamine medications. Over-the-counter allergy medications containing antihistamines can lower your allergic reaction to irritants in the air. However, some antihistamine medications can lead to side effects like drowsiness, so they’re not suitable for everyone. Talk to Dr. Nallamshetty’s office about taking allergy medications long-term.
- Nasal sprays. Nasal sprays containing steroids, antihistamines, or mast cell stabilizers can help manage allergy-induced asthma symptoms by reducing inflammation and treating congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. While effective, sprays do require a proper technique to use and may only partially relieve symptoms.
There’s no one medication or treatment that works best for everyone, so be sure to discuss your options with Dr. Nallamshetty in order to find management methods that work best for you.
While you may take medications to help reduce symptoms, you can also take steps to keep environmental allergens out of your home—and your airways. Here are a few tips.
- Avoid triggers. Avoiding the things that trigger your asthma may be easier said than done, but doing your best to avoid secondhand smoke and staying indoors during high pollen days can help reduce symptoms.
- Keep your home clean. Wiping down dust, vacuuming, washing linens (including curtains) in hot water, and regularly changing air filters will help to limit the number of allergens you’re exposed to while at home.
- Wear a breathable mask during chores. A mask can help you avoid inhaling dust that you may kick up while cleaning or the mold spores and pollen you’re exposed to when mowing the lawn or gardening.
- Dry clothes inside and keep your windows closed. This can help limit outdoor mold spores and pollen that stick to your laundry and come inside your home.
- Exercise indoors. Exercise can be an asthma trigger for some, and it’s compounded when exercising outdoors in areas with air pollution or pollen. Try exercising in your home or at an indoor gym.
Allergy-Induced Asthma in Kids
Asthma attacks in kids tend to be more serious because kids have smaller airways than adults, so even a little inflammation and mild symptoms can make breathing difficult. Letting asthma go untreated can lead to more severe symptoms down the road.
It can be difficult to diagnose asthma in young children, especially when they’re too young to describe how they feel. For that reason, it’s important to get children tested for asthma and allergies if they show any signs of difficulty breathing or ongoing congestion, runny nose, sneezing, or coughing. They should also be tested if they struggle with frequent colds or respiratory infections.
Furthermore, asthma and allergies can be genetic, so parents with either condition should keep a lookout for symptoms in their children.
Schedule an Appointment with an Allergy Specialist
Congestion, wheezing, runny nose, and other symptoms don’t have to keep interrupting your daily life. Allergists like Dr. Sami Nallamshetty at Florida Medical Clinic can help diagnose the causes of your allergies and help get your asthma under control year-round using treatments like allergy shots, medications, and more.
About Dr. Sami Nallamshetty
Sami Nallamshetty, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified asthma and allergy specialist at Florida Medical Clinic. Dr. Nallamshetty has been serving Tampa patients since 2008 after completing her fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Her research work on allergy and asthma has been published in leading medical journals.
Dr. Nallamshetty specializes in treating asthma and allergies in both adults and kids, as well as conditions like eczema, hives, immunologic disorders, food allergies, penicillin allergy, anaphylaxis, and mast cell disorders. Her goal is to create customized treatment plans for patients to help address their specific health concerns—and get them back to breathing easy.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.