Asthma and Allergies
Asthma and allergies are closely related. Did you know that up to 80% of people with asthma also have allergies? Or that most people with asthma have allergic asthma?
So, what is an allergy?
An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to allergens that do not cause problems for most people. This reaction can affect different parts of your body, triggering:
- Asthma which affects your lungs.
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) which affects your nose and eyes.
- Eczema or urticaria (hives) which affects your skin.
- Anaphylaxis (the most severe allergic reaction) which can affect your whole body and be life-threatening.
What is allergic asthma?
Asthma symptoms happen when the airways become swollen, tight, and produce mucus. These reactions make the airways more narrow and harder to breathe through.
There are two main ways allergy affects asthma.
- Allergy itself can produce allergic inflammation (swelling) in the airways.
- Contact with, or breathing in allergens can trigger an asthma attack.
What is an allergen?
Allergens are things that trigger an allergic reaction. Not all things which cause allergic reactions will trigger asthma. The most common allergic triggers for asthma symptoms include pollen, dust mite, animal dander, and mould.
It is very important to be clear about what allergies you have and how to manage them.
In people with asthma, allergens can worsen asthma symptoms and trigger flare-ups.
How do people with asthma take care of their allergies?
Assessment and treatment of allergies are a part of good asthma care. Talk to your doctor about any possible allergies you may have.
Your doctor might suggest allergy testing. Allergy testing can be done with skin prick testing or blood tests. Your doctor will decide if both or only one testing method is needed.
Once you know for sure what is triggering your allergies, you can manage them better. This will help you reduce the chance of allergic asthma symptoms and asthma flare-ups. Your treatment plan might involve:
- Treating hay fever (learn more about this here).
- Avoiding your allergens.
- Specific allergen immunotherapy.
- Biologic therapy for severe allergic asthma
Having a treatment plan for allergies is like having an action plan for your asthma. You can download templates for your doctor to complete from: https://www.allergy.org.au/hp/ascia-plans-action-and-treatment
Specific allergen immunotherapy is a targeted treatment that involves gradual exposure to your trigger/s. The aim of this treatment is to stop the immune system from overreacting to the allergen. Benefits can sometimes be seen within months, but the full course of treatment will usually be up to several years. Speak to your doctor for more information about immunotherapy.
Severe allergic asthma treatment may involve injections of a new type of medicine called biologic therapy. Biologic therapy aims to interrupt the immune system’s processes in response to allergens. This treatment is only available for patients with severe asthma. Click here to learn more.
If your asthma is difficult to control or often triggered by allergens, we strongly suggest talking to your doctor about referral to a specialist.