Allergies and Asthma
Allergies and asthma often go hand in hand. As reported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 60% of adults have allergy-induced asthma. That number is closer to 80% in school-age children.
Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen. Your body produces different chemicals or antibodies to fight off the substance.
In some instances, allergy symptoms affect the eyes and upper airway and cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. But in other cases, the allergic reaction can also affect the lungs. For example, one of the antibodies produced is IgE, which can lead to swelling of the airways.
Allergy and asthma symptoms can sometimes overlap. Symptoms may include:
- Chest tightness
- Increased mucus production
Decreasing Asthma Symptoms When You Have Allergies
It can be a challenge to reduce asthma symptoms if you also have allergies. This is especially relevant during certain times of the year when allergies might be worse. However, there are several things you can do that may help. Consider the following:
Keep Track of Your Triggers
If you have seasonal allergies, your asthma symptoms might also develop more frequently during certain months of the year. Be aware of what allergens are more common during different seasons. By becoming aware of which allergens may lead to your asthma symptoms, you can take steps to reduce your exposure.
Although it can vary depending on what part of the country you live in, some allergens are more common during certain times of the year.
Spring allergies are widespread. While blooming trees and flowers are pretty, they can spell trouble for people with seasonal allergies. Pollen from trees typically starts in March and sticks around for several months. Grass pollen also blooms and peaks around late May, which makes spring allergy season seem even longer.
Spring is not the only time of the year for allergies; the cooler fall weather can also mean an increase in allergy and asthma symptoms. Frequent fall allergens include pollen from ragweed and mold. As the weather gets colder and the leaves fall, mold can develop on the moist ground. The wind can stir the mold spores, causing them to become airborne.
Summer and Winter
According to the National Eczema Association, for some people, allergy season can last all year long; this may also mean more asthma symptoms. Year-round allergens can include dust mites, pet dander and mildew.
To decrease exposure to allergens that may also have a role in asthma symptoms, consider the following suggestions:
- Check the air quality each day. On poor air quality days, avoid spending too much time outdoors.
- Wash your face when you come in from outside to remove allergens.
- If you are sensitive to pollen or mold, avoid doing yard work.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid mold spores and pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Use an air conditioning system with a HEPA filter to trap allergens.
- If you must rake the leaves, wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in spores.
Use a Saline Nasal Rinse
Many people that have asthma also have allergy and sinus symptoms that can make their asthma worse. For instance, sinus problems and allergies can lead to a stuffed nose, which causes mouth breathing. When you breathe through your mouth, you expose your lungs to dehumidified air, which can be irritating.
A saline nasal rinse helps you flush allergens from the nose, which might decrease an allergic reaction. It can also help remove viruses that can make you sick and subsequently increase your asthma symptoms. A saline nasal rinse may also reduce swelling, which can improve airflow.
Take Leukotriene Modifiers
Leukotrienes are chemicals that are released by the immune system as part of the allergic response. Leukotrienes lead to constriction of the airways and increased mucus production.
Leukotriene modifiers are sometimes prescribed to treat both symptoms of asthma and allergies. The medication blocks the action of leukotrienes, which reduces the allergic response. Leukotriene modifiers are typically taken orally every day to prevent asthma and allergy symptoms. Common leukotriene modifiers include Singular and Zyflo.
Get Anti-Immunoglobulin E Therapy
Antibodies called IgE are released into the bloodstream when you have an allergic reaction. IgE antibodies trigger a release of histamine, which can cause allergy and asthma symptoms.
Anti-immunoglobulin E therapy prevents the allergic reaction that may lead to asthma symptoms. Currently, omalizumab is FDA approved to treat allergic asthma; the medication is administered through an injection.
Use a Steroid Inhaler
Inhalers containing steroids are also helpful for preventing asthma symptoms which are associated with allergies. Steroid inhalers reduce inflammation in the airways, which can improve airflow and make breathing easier. The inhalers are taken daily, but they are not used to treat sudden symptoms, such as bronchospasm. Common steroid inhalers include Qvar, Pulmicort and Flovent.