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Asthma and Allergies: Understanding the connection

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Asthma and Allergies Infographic from www.aafa.org

There are various kinds of asthma. One of these is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Other types include childhood and occupational asthma. But did you know that asthma and allergies are inextricably linked and that allergic asthma is always triggered by an allergy? These allergies could present itself in the form of dust mites, pollen, or mold. According to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAA) this form of asthma is triggered when you inhale allergens The AAAA also notes that more than half of America’s asthma sufferers have this type of asthma. Allergic asthma occurs when allergens cause an allergic reaction that constricts your airways, and makes it swollen and inflamed. This in turn may make you cough and wheeze or experience shortness of breath. Here’s what symptoms to look out for, diagnosis,treatment, and how to go about reducing your chances of developing allergic asthma.

The Symptoms of Allergy-Induced Asthma

  • Persistent cough. One of the earliest warning signs of allergy-related asthma is a cough, specifically one that develops at night.
  • Shortness of breath. If you suffer from shortness of breath after being exposed to a dusty environment, the outdoors during Spring, or after playing with your pet, you may have allergic asthma.
  • Pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest.
  • Wheezing. This may occur more frequently at night, but you may also develop wheezing during the day.
  • Insomnia. Breathing difficulties often leads to sleeplessness.

How to Diagnose Asthma

  • Skin allergy tests. Skin allergy tests often include scratch, patch and intradermal testing. With the scratch test, your healthcare provider will cover a tiny part of your back or forearm with an allergen, and then perform a painless prick or puncture on your skin. The patch test would require two consecutive visits to your doctor. He or she will place a patch containing allergens on your back or arm for 48 hours here. With the intradermal test, your doctor will inject a tiny amount of allergens just beneath your skin.
  • Allergy blood tests. These types of tests are beneficial in diagnosing approximately 10 types of allergens including pollen, dander, mold spores, and even some food allergies. They include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (EIA or ELISA) tests, and radioallergosorbent (RAST) tests.
  • Chest X-rays. Your doctor will obtain an image of your lungs to ascertain your pulmonary health.
  • Pulmonary function test. Also known as spirometry, this test serves as an indicator of your inhaling and exhaling capacity.
  • Methacholine challenge test. Here your healthcare provider will place methacholine in your airways to see if it will constrict your airways. Methacholine is an irritant with the tendency to tighten airways in asthma sufferers.

Treatment and Preventative Measures

  • Avoiding triggers. You could do this by ensuring your environment is clear of any pet dander and dust mites. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a case study of 400 children aged under 7 years was conducted by Celedon et al. Researchers discovered that the children exposed to dust mite allergens from birth to three months, were more prone to develop asthma by the age of seven. If possible, always use dust mite encasing for your bedding. Also, ensure that you’re outdoors less often on windy days during the pollen season.
  • Bronchodilators. This form of medication helps relax the muscles around your airways. It also clears excess mucous from your lungs. Theophylline and anticholinergics are bronchodilators.
  • Use anti-inflammatories. These pharmaceuticals include inhaled corticosteroids that help reduce inflammation and mucous in your airways. Some well-known brands here include Asmanex, Flovent, Qvar, Pulmicort, and Alvesco. If taken daily, your symptoms should start disappearing within weeks.

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