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
- Plant Pollen
- Dust Mites
- 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:
- Dust Mites
- 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:
- Tree Nuts such as Walnuts, Almonds, and Pecans
- Cow’s milk
- Shrimp and other Shellfish
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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