Allergic Asthma Explained
Allergies and asthma can be closely linked, leading to a condition known as allergic asthma. The symptoms of allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma are the same, but the triggers are different. People who have both allergies and asthma may wonder: what is allergic asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways. Asthma symptoms, also known as “attacks”, occur when a person is exposed to a trigger. The muscles around the airways tighten, and the interior walls of the airways become swollen and sore. As a result, a person having an asthma attack has difficulty breathing.
When exposed to an allergen– a substance which provokes an immune system response – a person who has allergic asthma may have an asthma attack. The exact allergen triggers will depend on the individual’s allergies.
Symptoms of allergic asthma include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest and airways
- Pain in the chest
Causes of Allergic Asthma
Allergic asthma can be caused by anything that triggers an allergic reaction.
Common allergic asthma triggers include:
- Pet dander
- Pollen from grasses, trees, and flowers
- Mold spores
- Rarely, food allergies – including food preservatives
It’s also important to note that people with allergic asthma can be affected by irritants that normally affect people with non-allergic asthma. These irritants can spark an asthma attack even though the individual does not have an allergic reaction to them.
Irritants which can cause asthma attacks include:
- Air pollution
- Cigarette smoke
- Cold air
- Dusty rooms
- Infections such as colds or the flu
It may seem impossible to avoid all of these triggers on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are medications to help manage asthma. The treatments for allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma are the same. Asthma medications can be classified as either long-term or short-term relief. Long-term relief aims to control inflammation in the airways on a daily basis. Short-term relief treats symptoms when they happen. In addition to medications, you can make some changes around the house to eliminate irritants and allergens at home.
Allergic Asthma Home Remedies
The best way to prevent an allergic asthma attack is to avoid exposure to allergens. This can be a challenge, especially during pollen season. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to reduce or eliminate allergens at home.
- Know your allergy triggers, and do your best to avoid them.
- Asthma can become worse after exercising, especially in cold air, when there is significant air pollution, or when pollen counts are high. Avoid exercising outdoors in these conditions.
- On days with a high pollen count, stay inside between 5am and 10am.
- Cleanse your house regularly, taking extra care to wipe dust off shelves with a damp cloth.
- If you use curtains, wash them every two weeks to prevent dust buildup.
- Do not use blankets or pillows which contain feather or down.
- Encase all bedding (including mattresses, duvets, and pillows) in zippered, allergen-proof cases
- Purchase allergen filters for your home, place them over air ducts, and replace or clean them regularly.
In the yard:
- Do not dry clothes outdoors, as pollen can stick to them.
- If you have a yard, ask someone who does not have asthma to cut the grass. Use a heavy-duty face mask if you must cut the grass yourself.
- Choose ground cover and trees for your yard that do not produce much pollen. Most female cultivars do not produce pollen.
By taking steps to prevent an asthma attack, you can breathe comfortably year round.
Allergic Asthma in Children
Whether allergic or non-allergic, asthma attacks in children can be very serious. This is because their airways are smaller than an adult’s airway, which makes breathing especially difficult during an attach. It’s important to diagnose childhood asthma as soon as possible, as even mild symptoms can become severe if left untreated.
Diagnosing allergic asthma can be difficult. Most children show symptoms before the age of 5, but young children may not yet have the lung capacity to complete airflow testing. Also, toddlers may be too young to describe how they feel. However, blood tests can be run at any age. Asthma and allergies are often genetic, so parents with either condition should stay on the lookout for symptoms of allergies and asthma in their children.
Symptoms of allergic asthma in children include:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Difficulty breathing
- Fast breathing that causes the skin around the ribs and neck to pull tight
- Recurring or frequent colds that settle in the chest
Symptoms may worsen when a child is around common allergy triggers such as pollen, pet dander, dust or smoke. Although rare, it’s possible for food allergies to trigger asthma attacks too. Even if symptoms are mild, it’s still important to seek treatment for your child’s asthma. Mild symptoms can become life-threatening quickly if left without treatment.
Controlling asthma with medication and avoiding triggers will help avoid trips to the emergency room, missing days of school and work, and hospital stays. Managing asthma will also help your child live a comfortable daily life.