All You Should Know About Allergic Asthma

Allergic asthma is a known chronic inflammatory condition characterised by inflamed lungs and tightening of airways after inhaling an allergen. This asthma is also called allergy-induced asthma.

Exposure to certain allergens can trigger the immune system to produce excess immunoglobulin E (IgE). This results in inflammation of the airways, causing symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

People with this condition usually start experiencing the symptoms following inhalation of an allergen such as dust mites, pet dander, mould, or pollen. About one in six persons with asthma have allergic asthma, but some do not experience allergies. At private clinic in London allergist can diagnose and treat allergic asthma.

Allergic Asthma

What causes allergic asthma?

When the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance known as an allergen, it results in an allergic reaction. Allergic asthma occurs when you experience breathing difficulties after inhaling allergens. The breathing difficulties is due to swelling of the airways.

The following are common allergens that result in allergic asthma.

  • Pet dander
  • Mould
  • Pollen
  • Rodents
  • Cockroach droppings
  • Dust mites

In some seasons, the allergic reaction may worsen due to the increased pollen from weeds, grasses and trees. However, symptoms of allergic asthma can occur throughout the year due to mould spores present outdoors or indoors on damp surfaces.

Dust mites present indoors feed on human skin cells and live in carpets, pillows and different fabrics. Pets, rodents and cockroaches also release faeces, dander, saliva and other substances that cause lead to allergic reactions.

Some foods also cause allergic reactions in a few persons. Common foods that trigger an allergic reaction include soy products, eggs, milk, shellfish, sesame seeds, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts.  Sulphites and histamines in products can cause allergic asthma in some persons.

Irritants like aerosol, tobacco smoke, cleaning products, wood fire, string odour and air pollution do not result in an allergic reaction, but they may cause inflammation of the airways and make the asthma symptoms worse.

What are allergic asthma symptoms?

An asthma resulting from allergic asthma also causes symptoms like other types of asthma, but the trigger differs. Allergic asthma may also lead to symptoms present in an allergic reaction.

The following are symptoms of an asthma attack.

  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

If you experience skin or fever allergies, you might experience these symptoms.

  • Watery eyes
  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Congestion
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose

If you swallowed the allergen, the following symptoms might also occur.

  • Tingly mouth
  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction)
  • Swollen throat, lips or mouth
  • Swollen tongue or face

How can allergic asthma be diagnosed?

The common option for diagnosing allergies is a skin prick test. This involves the doctor piercing your skin with a needle containing a small amount of the allergen. After about 15 minutes, the doctor will check the area for swelling, itching, discolouration or redness. The area may also be round, raised, discoloured or red, looking like a hive bump called a wheal. If these symptoms are present, you had an allergic reaction.

You can also get an additional lung function test to check whether you have asthma and allergies. The lung function test checks if your breathing improves after using an asthma medication known as a bronchodilator. If the medication makes your breathing better, you may have asthma.

Specific lung function tests include:

Spirometry

This test measures the amount of air inhaled and exhaled and how fast you exhale. You will blow air into a mouthpiece connected to a computer or device that checks for narrowing in your bronchial tubes present in the lungs.

Peak flow

This is a simple test where you breathe into a small handheld device. This device measures the air pressure while you breathe out. Although you can use this test at home or a lab to monitor your condition, it can also be used in asthma diagnosis.

FeNO test

This test is also called exhaled nitric oxide testing. In this test, you will blow into a device to measure the amount of nitric oxide in your airways.  The lungs produce nitric oxide following inflammation from an asthma attack.

Trigger or provocation test

This test checks your lung’s level of sensitivity to certain triggers, and it can confirm an asthma diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend this test if you experience asthma symptoms that other tests cannot diagnose. You will intake a potential asthma allergen and conduct a breathing test to measure your response to the allergen.

What are the available treatments for allergic asthma?

The treatments for allergic asthma may involve treating asthma, allergy or both conditions. The doctor may prescribe one or a combination of the following medications.

A fast-acting medication

This may include anticholinergics or short-acting beta-agonists to treat the asthma symptoms when they occur. This may be the only medication if you experience intermittent symptoms.

A daily control inhaler or nebuliser

This may include a long-acting beta-agonist or corticosteroids to manage and prevent mild but persistent symptoms of asthma.

Injectable or oral anti-inflammatory medications

This includes leukotriene, biologics, modifiers or oral corticosteroids to manage or prevent severe asthma symptoms. The medications may also manage allergy symptoms.

The treatment for an allergy depends on the severity of the symptoms, and they may include the following.

  • Antihistamines to treat typical allergy symptoms such as itching
  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy) to make your body less sensitive to allergens. This treatment may be necessary if you experience more severe symptoms.

Managing allergic asthma

An important step in managing allergic asthma is identifying and avoiding your triggers. This may involve removing the allergen from your home or environment. Washing your nasal passages often with a saline solution using a squeeze bottle or Neti pot can also help reduce allergic asthma symptoms.

What complications may occur from allergic asthma?

Allergic asthma can lead to serious complications such as anaphylaxis, a severe allergy with symptoms such as:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Hives
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Facial or mouth swelling
  • Fainting
  • Slurred speech
  • Nasal congestion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cough

Untreated anaphylaxis may be fatal, leading to health issues such as cardiac arrest, pulmonary arrest, low blood pressure and abnormal heart rate.

How to prevent allergic asthma

In most cases, allergic asthma is not preventable, but you can make the attacks less often by changing your environment. The steps to prevent allergic asthma will depend on the allergen.

Possible prevention methods include:

  • Using a vacuum that has a HEPA filter or removing rugs from rooms
  • Mopping and not sweeping
  • Washing your beddings often in hot water, 130oF (54oC), preferably
  • Placing duct covers on mattresses and pillows
  • Keeping your pets outside the house
  • Cleaning your basement, bathroom and kitchen regularly
  • Changing your clothes and taking your bath after staying outdoors
  • Setting cockroaches traps
  • Keeping the humidity in your home between 30 – 50%
  • Bathing your pet every week to remove dander
  • Avoiding being outdoor when the amount of pollen is high
  • Taking out your garbage regularly and keeping food closed to avoid attracting cockroaches

Will my allergic asthma occur throughout my life?

No cure is available for asthma, but you can take steps to manage the condition. Your doctor may recommend an action plan which may include reducing your exposure or avoiding triggers, and taking the prescribed medications.

If you experience symptoms of allergic asthma, ensure you get skin allergy tests to confirm if your symptoms are due to allergic asthma. This helps you get the necessary medications and advice to manage the condition. You can get a test for allergic asthma diagnosis at Medical Express Clinic. Call us to schedule an appointment for skin allergy testing.

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