Allergic asthma makes up 60% of all asthma cases. Specific substances, such as pollen or mold, bring on the symptoms of allergic asthma. These substances are called allergens. Other types of asthma are nonallergic and can be triggered by things such as tobacco smoke or exercise.
If you have allergic asthma, it's key to learn how to avoid allergens, which are all around you in the environment.
Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. Common asthma symptoms include:
Coughing, especially at night
Shortness of breath
Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
Still, not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have different...
The job of your immune system is to protect you from germs such as bacteria and viruses. However, if someone has an allergy, the immune system is too cautious. It attacks harmless substances -- such as cat dander -- as though they were enemy invaders.
In a person with allergies, the body creates special cells called IgE antibodies when it encounters an allergen. These defensive cells trigger the body's allergic reaction. They cause the release of natural chemicals such as histamine, which result in swelling. This leads to familiar allergy symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing. This signals that the body is trying to rid itself of the allergens.
In people with allergic asthma, the immune system also overreacts when it comes into contact with certain allergens. Because the airways are hypersensitive to these allergens, the muscles around airways begin to tighten. The airways themselves also become inflamed and flooded with mucus.
The Symptoms of Allergic Asthma
The symptoms of allergic asthma are generally the same as those of nonallergic asthma. They include:
Shortness of breath
Tightening of the chest
What Are Common Allergens?
Inhaled allergens are among the most likely to worsen your allergic asthma. They include:
Pollen from trees and grass, such as ragweed
Animal dander (from hair, skin, or feathers) and saliva
People may also have allergic reactions if they touch or eat allergens. This type of exposure rarely causes asthma symptoms, although it can still cause a dangerous reaction, such as anaphylactic shock. This reaction can make it difficult to breathe and even cause death.
Keep in mind that allergens are not the only thing that can worsen your allergic asthma. Irritants may also trigger an asthma attack, even though they don't cause an allergic reaction. Irritants include:
Strong chemical odors
Perfumes or other scented products
Intense emotions that cause you to laugh or cry
Your doctor might do allergy tests to figure out which allergens affect you. These tests usually involve pricking your skin with a tiny amount of the allergen or injecting it under your skin. Your doctor then checks your skin for a reaction. If a skin test isn't possible, you might get a blood test instead.
Environmental Control of Allergic Asthma
A crucial part of controlling your allergic asthma is to limit your exposure to allergens in the environment. Here are some tips.
When pollen counts are high, stay inside as much as possible. Keep the windows closed. If you have an air conditioner, use it to filter the air.
To keep dust mites out, wrap your pillows, mattress, and box spring in special allergen-proof covers. Wash your sheets once a week in hot water. Remove wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible. Get rid of items where dust can accumulate, such as on heavy curtains or piles of clothing. If your child has allergic asthma, only buy washable stuffed animals.
If moisture is a problem in your home, get a dehumidifier to reduce mold. Repair any plumbing leaks.
If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom.
Keep your kitchen and bathroom very clean to avoid mold and cockroaches.
Be careful doing outside work. Gardening and raking can stir up pollen and mold.