Allergies have a direct connection with the immune system of a person.
Primarily, our body’s defense system is meant to create a defense mechanism against various diseases that cause germs or bacteria. However, for people who have allergies, this defense mechanism also combats harmless substances such as pollen, animal fur, etc.
An allergic reaction, in simple terms, occurs as an unexpected response of the body to certain substances which cause unfavorable reactions in the body. Allergic asthma is one of the most common asthmatic conditions and is seen in more than half of patients suffering with asthma. With allergies, the immune system defends the body against harmless substances such as dust and dander. When allergic responses lead to the symptoms of asthma, it is called allergic asthma. The asthma symptoms are triggered by several allergens. Understanding allergy triggers is very important in controlling the symptoms of this condition.
Allergic reactions are triggered by the release of IgE antibodies, the production of which is stimulated in the presence of specific allergens. IgE antibodies stimulate the production of histamines that cause inflammation and swelling of tissues. Histamine also causes the normal symptoms of an allergy, like runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. These responses are the body’s way of removing the allergens.
In allergic asthma, the air passages are highly sensitive to numerous allergens. When the airways are exposed to these allergens, the immune system produces an exaggerated response. This narrows the muscles around the airways, which become swollen and filled with mucus.
Common Symptoms of Allergic Asthma
The most common symptoms of allergic asthma include:
Common Triggers of Allergic Asthma
Some of the most common triggers of allergic asthma include:
- Pollen from trees and grass
- Animal dander
- Dust mite feces
Allergic reactions may also be caused by allergens entering the eyes. There are several allergens that may cause an asthma attack without any other allergy reactions.
Some allergic irritants are listed below:
- Tobacco smoke
- Smoke from other sources
- Pollutants in air
- Cold air
- Chemicals or odors from chemicals
- Certain perfumes and air fresheners
One of the major risk factors for allergic asthma is a family history of the condition. Having other forms of allergies or hay fever may also increase the risk of allergic asthma.
Allergic asthma is treated with medications like bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications. Bronchodilators help to relax the muscles around the airways; thus, helping breathing to become easier. Anti-inflammatory medications are useful in long-term control of asthma symptoms. They are also useful for reducing swelling in the airways.
Allergy shots are administered to prevent exaggerated responses of the immune system to allergens. Prevention of allergic asthma is possible by avoiding specific triggers.
Risk Factors Associated with Allergic Asthma
There are many factors that contribute to certain people having a higher risk of developing asthma and various other respiratory diseases. Asthma as a disease can occur even in cases where no risk factors are present. However, there are certain conditions that increase the chances of acquiring the disease. Various risk factors are likely to cause an individual to develop various symptoms related to asthma. These symptoms include coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and so on.
Once risk factors have been identified, it is important to avoid the manageable factors to prevent asthma attacks. While certain factors like genetics and gender cannot be changed, one can certainly avoid smoking and other triggers that are likely to be the cause of asthma for them.
Asthma is also directly connected with being overweight; hence, managing your weight with exercises and a healthy diet can go a long way in minimizing episodes of asthma. Identifying and understanding the risk factors goes a long way in helping one better cope with the disease.
Here are some of the most common risk factors that are often associated with allergic asthma:
Gender: Although it may sound strange, gender does plays a contributing role in developing asthmatic conditions. Asthma is known to occur more frequently in boys as compared to girls. While the logic behind this is still unknown, there are various instances that prove the link. There are studies that have suggested that the male airways, particularly at a younger age, are smaller compared to female airways. These smaller airways increase the risk of wheezing especially when confronted with infections like cold and cough. Around age 20, the risk factors become equal for both males and females. After 40, asthma is more likely to occur in women than men.
Genetics: Genetics often puts one at a higher risk of developing asthma. In fact, asthma can be acquired from either parents or grandparents. This doesn't mean that people with no family history of asthma are immune to this condition, it just means their chances are lesser compared to those with the family history.
Atopy: It often takes parents by surprise when doctors suggest a relation between their children’s skin allergies and asthma. Atopy is a tendency for one to develop skin conditions like eczema. Atopy makes one highly sensitive to common allergens found in food and in the air. Children suffering from skin conditions like eczema or atopic dermatitis are often known to develop asthma. Sometimes, the asthma that develops can become more severe as the child ages.
Environmental factors: Air pollution is known to be one of the primary triggers for asthma. Pollutants like cigarette smoke, fumes, mold, and paints often tend to trigger asthma for certain groups of people. Extremely cold temperatures or high humidity could also be the reason for asthma in some people.
Smoking: Both active and passive smoking can be an important risk factor for asthma. In fact, cigarette smoke has been found to be one of the primary causes of asthma development in teenagers. Second hand smoking is just as dangerous as smoking yourself.
Obesity: Research has time and again proven that obesity is one of the major causes of asthma and various other respiratory problems. As one gains weight, there is an undue pressure created on the lungs to work harder in order to perform normal respiratory functions. When the lungs are overworked, they tend to become tired and distressed faster; thus, leading to respiratory and breathing issues such as asthma.
Preventing Allergic Asthma
One of the best way to prevent the occurrence of allergic asthma is to prevent exposure to the allergens that could trigger the asthma attack.
- If you or your child are suffering from dust mite allergies, then it is important to wash the bed linens and covers frequently. All bedding must be washed well in hot water to prevent the dust mites from settling and triggering an infection.
- If you are suffering from mold allergies, it is important to ensure optimum ventilation in your living areas. Use air conditioners when possible to keep the temperatures of the rooms regulated and prevent damp air from settling into the room. It is also important to keep bathrooms and washing areas dry to avoid mold settling in.
- Many people can develop allergic asthma due to insects and bugs. It is important to keep the house free from insects and pests that could trigger these allergies. Food should always be covered and refrigerated to prevent infestation. Drains and open areas should be frequently sprayed with insecticide to prevent them from making their way into your home.
- Those suffering from pollen allergies should avoid going out in the early hours of the morning when pollen dust is at its most prevalent. Avoid wooded areas where the instance of pollen dust could be highest. Use a dryer to dry clothes instead of hanging them out to dry and potentially exposing them to dust and pollen.
- If you are allergic to animal fur or dander, it is best to avoid close contacts with pets. If you do happen to stay close to one, then immediately have a bath and change your clothes to prevent an allergic reaction.