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Causes of Allergic Asthma

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In order for you to truly understand the causes of allergic asthma, it is important for you to know exactly what asthma is and how allergies can affect you. Asthma attacks occur when your symptoms get worse and your airways become inflamed. An allergic asthma attack is when the attack is triggered by allergens.

What is an allergen?

Your immune system is designed to defend your body from exposure to substances that are harmful to your body. These substances are called allergens. Examples of some common allergens are:

  • Animal Hair
  • Animal Saliva
  • Animal Skin
  • Mold
  • Plant Pollen
  • Dust Mites
  • Medications
  • Foods
  • Metals
  • Latex
  • Chemicals in Perfumes, Dyes, Household Cleaning Products

Because your immune system recognizes these allergens as harmful, you develop symptoms, which creates disruption in your other bodily functions, such as coughing and sneezing, for example. When your allergens trigger this reaction in your body, you experience an allergic reaction.

What is an Allergic Reaction?

Your immune system’s job is to fight off viruses and bacteria that may enter your body. Sometimes it will respond to certain, otherwise harmless substances inappropriately. When this occurs, your body creates the chemical histamine, which sets off your allergic response. Why your body’s immune system can make that mistake is unknown.

About one out of every five people will develop allergic reactions, and it can happen at any age. In fact, you can experience a sudden allergic reaction to something that never bothered you before. Having a family history of allergies will make it more likely that you, at some point, will develop some, too.

Which Allergies Cause Asthma?

The biggest asthma triggers seem to be inhaled substances, such as:

  • Pollen
  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Animal Dander, Skin, and Saliva
  • Cockroach particles

Doctors recommend that everyone with asthma or allergies to keep a substance diary. Every time you have an attack, write down whatever substances you know or believe you reacted to so you can identify and avoid your triggers.

While food allergies rarely cause asthma, it can happen, and you can experience life-threatening reactions. Write down every food that you have a reaction from, so you will remember to avoid them in the future. The most common foods that cause an allergic reaction are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts such as Walnuts, Almonds, and Pecans
  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shrimp and other Shellfish
  • Wheat

Preservatives in foods can also cause an allergic reaction in your body. Additives such as sodium sulfite, sodium and potassium metabisulfite, and sodium and potassium bisulfite are all potential allergens. Some of the more common foods these are found in are:

  • Pickled Foods
  • Potatoes (Some Prepared and All Packaged)
  • Dried vegetables and fruits
  • Shrimp (Frozen, Fresh, and Prepared)
  • Bottled Lemon or Lime Juice
  • Beer and Wine

If you experience a rash, hives, wheezing, or a tightening of your throat called anaphylaxis, you need to go to the emergency room immediately. The swelling that occurs with anaphylaxis can completely close your airway, making it unable for you to breathe.

If you believe you have had an asthma attack caused by any of these substances or foods, discuss it with your doctor. He or she may order allergy skin testing to determine what substances you are allergic to.

What do I do next?

Keep in contact with your doctor and take your medication as prescribed. If you have an emergency inhaler, keep it with you at all times. With some investigation and pre-planning, you can reduce or possibly even eliminate coming in contact with the allergens that cause your asthma attacks and live a healthier, happier life.

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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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