|Allergic Asthma FAQ
Here are a few frequently asked questions about allergic asthma.
◆ What is allergic asthma?
◆ How common is it?
◆ What triggers allergic asthma?
◆ What is IgE?
◆ How can I tell whether I have allergic asthma?
◆ Are there any tips on living with allergic asthma?
What is allergic asthma?
How common is it?
Allergic asthma is how doctors describe a particular type of asthma. In people with this common
condition, certain types of allergens can trigger asthma attacks and symptoms such as coughing,
wheezing, and shortness of breath.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60% of the people in the United States with asthma have allergic asthma.
What triggers allergic asthma?
You are probably aware of many things that can trigger your asthma. Mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and pet dander are common
examples of year-round allergens. What you may not know is how something as simple as visiting a friend who has a pet can lead
to an asthma attack. The reason, in part, is a substance produced by the body called IgE.
What is IgE?
IgE is short for Immunoglobulin E. This substance, which occurs naturally in your body in small amounts, plays an important role
in allergic asthma. If you have allergic asthma, you body makes more IgE when you breathe an allergen. This can cause a series
of chemical reactions known as the allergic-inflammatory process in allergic asthma. It can result in 2 things:
◆ The muscles that surround the airways in your lungs begin to tighten. This is known as constriction of the airways.
◆ Your airways become irritated and swell up. This is known as inflammation of the airways.
Together, constriction and inflammation of the airways make it harder for you to breathe. This can lead to an asthma attack.
Reaction to Allergens
Allergic Rhinitis is caused by inhaling airborne particles you may be allergic to. These are called allergens. Out of the more than
67 million Americans who suffer from allergies,24-40 million suffer from airborne allergies.
These are caused by:
◆Pollen ◆Pet dander ◆Dust particles ◆Mold spores
Plants like ragweed, cattail and maple tree release their pollen to initiate their reproductive processes with nearby plants of their
species. Pollens are carried by the wind, so not all of them reach their targets, and instead they land on you. For that reason, too,
Pollen is frequently present in the air we breathe.
General symptoms of these types of allergies include:
Sneezing; Clear and water nasal discharge and congestion; Water eyes ; Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
Scientists don't know why some people have a super sensitivity to allergens, but they do know the ways in which your body reacts
to them. What you feel when an allergen comes in contact with you is a result of the chain reaction your body goes through to
prevent an attack by a foreign substance. Those reactions cause the annoying symptoms we call allergies.
For example, your nose serves an important function for your lungs - it acts as a filter to clean the air you breathe. Nose hairs trap
airborne substances, including allergens, preventing them from reaching your lungs. Small quantities of harmless substances, such
as pollen, have no damaging effect on the lungs, meaning that the nose's filtration process works efficiently enough to insure that
nothing has gotten through. Only when harmful substances are present should the nerves cause a dilation of the blood vessels inside
the nose to block entry to foreign particles.
This system works fine with non-allergic individuals. But for people with allergies, the nose overdoes it and dilates the blood
vessels unnecessarily. The result is the swelling, itching, and inflammation common to airborne allergic reactions. The truly
unlucky allergy sufferers also experience excess fluid (mucus) release, to the delight of tissue manufacturers worldwide!
Similar symptoms are seen in the eyes. Your eyelids have the same job as your nose hairs in that they trap airborne substances
such as allergens. Overly protective defense reactions cause your eyes to turn red and itchy, as well as to produce an overabundance
More than 67 million Americans suffer from Allergies. But, what are allergies?
An allergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance (called an allergen) which causes the body's defense system (the
immune system) to overreact when defending itself. Normally, the immune system would only react if a harmful substance, such
as a bacteria, attacks the body. For people with allergies, their own immune system is working too hard, and it reacts even when
relatively harmless substances such as pollen are present. The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to
life threatening situations.
Allergens can stimulate an immune response when you breathe in or touch the allergen, or by ingestion of food or beverage, or
from injections of medication.
When you have an allergic reaction you may feel a combination of the following symptoms: sneezing, wheezing, nasal congestion,
coughing, itchy eyes, stomach ache, and itchy skin.
Find Out More About:
◆Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis) or other respiratory allergies. ◆Asthma which can be triggered by allergies.
◆Your Reaction to Allergens - the symptoms we call allergies. ◆Treatment Options for Hay Fever.
How can you learn what type of allergens affect you?
The most common method doctors use to identify specific allergies is a skin test. By scratching the skin, or making an injection just
underneath it, the doctor can observe your body's reaction to various allergens. This skin test cannot classify all allergies, but does
cover major categories such as common respiratory allergies, as well as allergic reactions to penicillin, food, and insect stings.
The children of people with allergies have a greater likelihood of having allergies themselves. As a result, doctors often learn about
a patient's allergies based on family and personal medical records.
Finally, doctors find clues in the recent activities patients engage in by asking a battery of questions. For example, to determine
whether your reaction is a result of food, airborne or chemical allergens, the doctor might ask, respectively: "did you eat anything
unusual recently?", "were you working or exercising vigorously outdoors?" or "did you come into contact with anything which might
have irritated your skin and eyes?" Your doctor will likely ask if you suffer from asthma, since allergies increase the risk of an
◆ Skin Allergies ◆ Food Allergies ◆ Drug Allergies ◆ Insect Sting Allergies