Asthma & allergies: what’s the link?

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Asthma and allergies are closely related, with allergic reactions to airborne pathogens or food being a major contributing factor to asthma symptoms. Treatment options include antihistamines, decongestants, allergy shots, oral antibodies, and inhaled corticosteroids. Preventative measures include avoiding allergens and controlling indoor and outdoor airborne allergens.

Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed and irritated, making breathing difficult. Asthmatics may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing. Asthma attacks can occur for a variety of reasons, such as engaging in excessive physical activity, breathing cold air, or getting a respiratory infection. One of the most important contributing factors to asthma symptoms, however, are allergic reactions to airborne pathogens or food. Asthma and allergies are commonly associated when treatment options and preventative measures are considered.

The relationship between asthma and allergies is well documented. Many research studies correlate them strongly with each other, and the results often show that allergy sufferers are more likely to develop asthma symptoms over time. In fact, entire organizations exist to study the relationship between asthma and allergies and inform doctors and the general public about the latest breakthroughs in treatment. In the United States, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America provides many different educational resources for sufferers through clinical seminars and their website.

When a person has a severe allergy, their body responds by releasing a chemical known as histamine to help fight pathogens. Histamine can cause inflammation of the nose, throat and sinuses. The irritation caused by allergic reactions triggers asthma in people with the condition. The onset of asthma further blocks the throat and airways, making it difficult to breathe deeply. Individuals may experience pain and wheezing attacks up to debilitation. Symptoms usually don’t subside until the allergen is no longer present and the body has a chance to recover.

Doctors can treat asthma and allergies in several ways. If a person’s asthma symptoms only occur when an allergic reaction is occurring, the doctor can focus treatment specifically on the allergens. A patient may be instructed to take oral antihistamines and decongestants or to use a nasal spray. If allergy-induced asthma symptoms persist, an individual may need to receive regular allergy shots to help desensitize the body, oral antibodies, or inhaled corticosteroids.

Asthma and allergies cannot be cured, but they often subside as a person ages and their immune system improves at fighting common pathogens. There are many different preventative measures a person can take to avoid allergens and thus prevent asthma attacks. A person who knows they are allergic to a certain type of food, such as peanuts, should check product labels carefully to make sure they are not accidentally ingesting it. Indoor airborne allergens such as dust and pet dander can be controlled with frequent house cleaning and using an air filter. Finally, a person prone to outdoor allergens such as mold and pollen can plan outings when airborne pathogens are at a minimum.

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