Allergic Asthma - When Allergies and Asthma Collide
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Asthma and allergies often go hand in hand. From pollen to pet dander, the inhaled allergens that trigger your hay fever symptoms, can lead to asthma symptoms.
If you, or someone you know has had the misfortune of suffering from asthma and allergies, you may be interested to learn what they have in common, aside from the obvious fact of making you feel pretty wretched.
Allergies and asthma often occur together, as many of the substances that can trigger your allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever) are also responsible for setting off some irritating asthma symptoms.
As the most common type of asthma, symptoms are triggered by inhaling allergens, such as pollen, pet dander or house dust mite.
In some people, skin or food allergies can cause asthma symptoms.
This is called allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma.
The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) states that more than 150 million Europeans suffer from chronic allergic disease. Worryingly, their current prediction is that by 2025, a whopping half of the entire EU population will be affected.
Allergy and Asthma
It is more likely to develop asthma if you are living with hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or have a family history of allergies. If you do suffer from both hay fever and allergic asthma, you need to ensure that your hay fever symptoms are carefully controlled.
If you do not take necessary steps to treat the symptoms of your hay fever, it can lead to the development of asthma. If you already have asthma, it can your symptoms much worse.
Ways to treat your hay fever can include:
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA Tablets)
- Decongestant nasal drops and sprays
Allergen-specific immunotherapy can also be considered to treat symptoms of hayfever.
How does an Allergic Reaction lead to Asthma?
The British Society for Immunology defines an allergy as:
“An unnecessary immune response to an innocuous substance.”
Otherwise known as an ALLERGEN.
The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) goes on to say that:
“The word allergen literally means substance capable of producing allergies. Allergens are tolerated without problems by non-allergic individuals. For example, most people tolerate being in contact with cats, but when you are allergic to them you start to sneeze, and you get an itchy and runny nose.”
An allergic reaction takes place when the immune system proteins – also known as antibodies – mistakenly identify a harmless substance. This can be an inhaled allergen, such as tree or birch pollen, as an invader.
As your body tries to protect you from this substance, antibodies bind to the allergen.
The chemicals released by your immune system lead to various allergy signs and symptoms, such as:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy skin
For some people, this complex reaction causes the airways of the lungs to become inflamed, leading to asthma symptoms, Worse, it can cause a full-blown asthma attack, which leads to a hospital admission every 8 minutes in the UK alone.
Could you have Allergic Asthma?
So, just how do you know if you’re a victim of this fairly miserable condition?
With the UK containing some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, your symptoms could well be attributed to this type of asthma.
Over 20% of the population is affected by one or more allergic disorder.
The most common symptoms of allergic asthma are:
- Feeling short of breath
- Tight chest
- Cough (at any time of the day or night)
If you do have allergic asthma, your airways will be super sensitive to certain allergens. Once they get into your body, it will throw your immune system into overdrive. The passages in your airways will begin to tighten and the airways will then become inflamed.
Over time, these will become covered with thick mucus.
Are all types of asthma caused by allergies?
Even though allergic asthma is the most common type of the condition, not all types of asthma are triggered by allergies.
The majority of asthma sufferers tend to have more than one kind of asthma trigger and asthma itself can be triggered by any number of the following:
- Respiratory Infections
- Weather – extremities such as windy or cold air
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD)
When it comes to Allergic Asthma, the key triggers are:
- Pollen Allergy
- Mould Allergy
- Dust Mite Allergy
- Food Allergy
- Drug Allergy
- Pet Allergy
Remember: Identifying your own trigger(s), no matter what they may be, is the most important aspect when it comes to avoiding or reducing your exposure. It will also help to improve your symptoms.
Ways to treat Allergic Asthma
There are treatments out there which can help with either asthma or allergies. But there are ones out there to help treat both of these troublesome conditions:
- Allergy shots.
Allergy shots – also known as immunotherapy – are seen as one of the best options for people who cannot avoid the triggers which lead to allergic asthma symptoms or a full blown asthma attack.
Immunotherapy requires regular injections over a timeframe of roughly 3-5 years. These injections contain very small allergen amounts that trigger your asthma symptoms.
The way these work is for your immune system to gradually build up a tolerance to these allergens
These shots are not designed to cure the condition, but to find a way to make your symptoms much less severe.
- Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy
As mentioned, when suffer with an allergy, it’s because your immune system mistakenly sees an inhaled allergen as something harmful, releasing antibodies, known as IgE.
The medication Omalizumab – also known as Xolair – is a biologically engineered, anti-IgE antibody. Shown to decrease the number of asthma attacks in patients with more moderate to severe allergic asthma, drug interferes with IgE in the body and helps to prevent the allergic reaction that triggers asthma symptoms.
Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists (LTRAs)
During an allergic reaction, your body releases leukotrienes, and it’s these chemicals which will inflame your airways.
LTRAs can help with allergies because they help to block the effects of these chemicals within your body.
So, if you do experience symptoms of hay fever alongside your asthma, your doctor or asthma nurse may prescribe you LTRAs to help to stop your airways from becoming inflamed.
One thing is for sure. It’s always important to check in with your doctor at regular intervals, as your allergy and asthma symptoms could well vary over time. If this is the case, you’ll need to look at your treatment and change it as required.
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