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Most asthma is linked to allergies. If you have allergic asthma, learning how to avoid your allergy triggers is a big part of feeling better and staying well.

What Is an Allergy and Allergic Asthma?

Allergies are all about your immune system. The job of your immune system is to protect you from germs such as bacteria and viruses. But if you have an allergy, your immune system will also defend your body against a harmless substance -- such as cat dander or dust mites -- that you encounter.

When you come across an allergy trigger, your body makes molecules called IgE antibodies. These trigger a series of reactions that can cause swelling, runny nose, and sneezing.

In people with allergic asthma, the muscles around their airways begin to tighten. The airways themselves also become inflamed and flooded with mucus.

Symptoms of Allergic Asthma

The symptoms of allergic asthma are generally the same as those of non-allergic asthma. They include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast breathing
  • Tightening of the chest

What Are Common Allergens?

Allergens you inhale are some of the most likely to worsen your allergic asthma.

  • Pollen from trees and grass, such as ragweed
  • Mold
  • Animal dander (from hair, skin, or feathers) and saliva
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches

People may also have allergic reactions if they touch or eat allergens. This type of exposure rarely causes asthma symptoms, but it can cause a serious and even life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, which makes it hard to breathe.

Irritants can also trigger an asthma attack, even though they don't cause an allergic reaction.

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Cold air
  • Strong chemical odors
  • Perfumes or other scented products
  • Intense emotions that cause you to laugh or cry

Your doctor might recommend allergy tests to figure out what allergens affect you. These tests usually involve pricking your skin with a tiny amount of the suspected 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.

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Sneaky Allergy Triggers

Sure, there's pollen. Other things can trigger your asthma too, though.

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