Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. About 90% of kids with childhood asthma have allergies, compared with about 50% of adults with asthma. Inhaling specific substances called allergens (allergy triggers such as pollen, mites, or molds) brings on the asthma symptoms associated with allergic asthma. Nearly everyone with asthma (allergic or nonallergic) gets worse after exercising in cold air or after inhaling any type of smoke, dust, fumes, and sometimes strong smells.
An asthma action plan is a written plan developed by your doctor or asthma specialist to help you or another family member, including teenagers and children, manage asthma and prevent asthma attacks. The plan is designed to tell you or other family members what to do when there are changes in the severity of asthma symptoms and in peak flow numbers.
A major task of your immune system is to protect you from bacteria and viruses. However, in people with allergies, part of the immune system is too vigilant. It may treat harmless substances -- like cat dander or pollen -- as if they were enemy invaders and attack them (in your nose, lungs, eyes, and under your skin).
When your body encounters an allergen, it stimulates IgE antibodies. These antibodies trigger an allergic reaction. They cause the release of chemicals like histamine, which result in swelling and inflammation. This creates familiar allergy symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing because your body is trying to remove the allergens.
What Is Allergic Asthma?
If you have allergic asthma, your airways are hypersensitive to certain allergens. Once these allergens get into your airways, your immune system overreacts. The muscles around your airways tighten (an effect called bronchospasm). The airways themselves become inflamed and over time are flooded with thick mucus.
Whether you have allergic asthma or nonallergic asthma, the symptoms of asthma are generally the same and may include any or all of the following:
Shortness of breath
Tightening of the chest
Common Allergens for Allergic Asthma
Allergens, which are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs, include:
Windblown pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds
Mold spores and mold fragments
Animal dander (from hair, skin, or feathers) and saliva
Dust mite feces
Keep in mind that allergens are not the only thing that can worsen your allergic asthma. Irritants may still trigger an asthma attack, even though they don't cause an allergic reaction. These irritants include:
Smoke from a fireplace, candles, incense, or fireworks
Cold air, especially vigorous exercise in cold air
Strong chemical odors or fumes
Perfumes, air fresheners, or other scented products
Your health care provider can perform allergy and asthma tests to determine exactly which indoor and outdoor allergens cause your allergic asthma. The two most common (and recommended) tests are:
Pricking your skin with a tiny amount of the allergen and measuring the size of the red bumps 20 minutes later