Allergies affect more of us than you may think. You may get an occasional sniffle or two but being allergic to certain things can lead to serious health problems like asthma and even death. With allergens hiding in the most harmless of places, understanding what causes a reaction, and how to identify symptoms and manage your allergies is therefore very necessary, if not for your own wellbeing, then for that of those you love.
What is allergy-induced asthma?
First of all, asthma is a condition in which the air passages in the lungs are chronically inflamed. The inflammation causes swelling and excess mucus production, both of which narrow the air passages. During an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the airways tighten, causing the airways to narrow even further. This narrowing makes it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to breathe.
Allergy-induced asthma is a form of asthma in which the inflammation and muscle tightening are triggered by an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies the particular substance, such as pollen or dust mites, for example, as an invader and starts to create Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against it. These antibodies travel to cells that release histamines and other substances which are responsible for the inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 235 million people around the world suffer from asthma. It is also the most common chronic condition among children. While the reasons why some children develop asthma are unknown, there’s still a 30% chance that a child might inherit it if one parent has the condition. These odds hit 70% if both parents have asthma.
What exactly causes a reaction?
An assortment of everyday substances can cause our immune system to go haywire. If you’re exposed to pollen, dust, mold spores, animal fur or saliva, or dust mites or cockroach feces, you may find yourself experiencing an allergic reaction. Candle and tobacco smoke, heavily-scented products, and very cold air, while not technically allergens, can also trigger a reaction.
While some of the reasons behind allergy-induced asthma stem from external stimuli like those mentioned above, genes play a part as well. People who inherit mutated genes are more predisposed to developing allergic asthma than those without the genes. However, as this is a complex condition influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, there is no guarantee the condition will develop fully.
Am I having an allergic reaction?
Knowing and recognizing symptoms can help you identify if what you’re experiencing is, in fact, an allergy-induced asthma attack. These might not appear suddenly, but may occur and worsen slowly, over a few hours or days and include:
-Coughing at night or in the early morning
-Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache
Treating your allergy-induced asthma
Thankfully, your allergy-induced asthma attacks can be treated but always be sure to consult a medical professional should you require any of the following medication.
Two types of medicine are typically prescribed to help with allergy-induced asthma. The one most commonly prescribed by many doctors is a short-acting beta agonist (SABA), given through an inhaler. The SABA can be used during an asthma attack to relax the constricted air passages.
If you need an inhaler more frequently, a second medication can help in the long term, though it will not relieve an asthma attack. Many doctors might prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) which must be used every day, whether or not symptoms of an asthma attack are present. Over time, using an ICS consistently will minimize inflammation in the air passages. When the air passages are not inflamed but are similar to normal, smooth, unobstructed air passages, exposure to a trigger is less likely to lead to obstructed airways.
Should your child have asthma, ask your doctor about using a “spacer” with the inhaler. This plastic attachment will help to ensure that your child gets a full dose of the medication. Also ask about using a “peak flow meter”, which will help you to measure your or your child’s lung function at home and can help predict the likelihood of an attack.
Alternatives to the ICS include additional long-term medications like a leukotriene modifier (such as Singulair), or an anti-IgE therapy (such as Xolair). Remember to always get the opinion of your medical professional.
Managing your allergy-induced asthma
Allergies are among the most common chronic conditions in the world and learning to live with them requires effort. Start by allergy-proofing your house against triggers, like dust, mold, cockroaches, pet fur or saliva and other common indoor allergens by cleaning regularly and eliminating unnecessary, hard-to-clean surfaces like decorative pillows. Be aware of pollen counts and ensure good air quality when participating in outdoor activities. In common areas outside of your home, like the workplace, evaluate for possible allergens and take the necessary steps to reduce your exposure to them.
Make sure that you understand from your doctor when you should go to the emergency room. If you are on medication, keep taking it for as long as your doctor recommends and don’t stop just because you think you feel better. You should also consult with an allergist to define specific triggers and consider getting an annual flu shot. Educating yourself by staying informed on the latest developments in asthma and allergy care and treatment can help alleviate some of the daily irritation of having allergies.
How Halza can help with your allergies
Staying on top of your health problems is easier than ever with the Halza mobile app. Simply go to your profile and add the details of any allergies you might have, then enable viewing access for your medical professionals to ensure they receive up-to-date information from you. Upload your records and share the information with any physician you visit to receive a more conclusive diagnosis.
You can also set reminders on the app for any upcoming appointments with specialists or just use the function to take your medicine regularly. The chat and feed features of the app also allow you to check on family members and keep tabs on their health updates.