Ask the Experts: What Would you Share About the Symptoms of Allergy-Induced Asthma?
Response from Lorene Alba, AE-C:
Symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and/or coughing. If you have outdoor allergies such as pollen or grasses, you may experience asthma symptoms when exercising outside. Managing allergies will be the key to managing your asthma; so get asthma testing to find out exactly what you are allergic to, and take your allergy and asthma medications as prescribed.
Response from Leon C. Lebowitz, BA, RRT:
Understanding the prevalence of allergic asthma and its commonality within the patient population is important to knowing you are not alone and symptoms, although prevalent, can be managed and controlled. These symptoms, as we know, include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It is the precipitating factors of these symptoms that set the person with allergic asthma apart from other types of asthma. For the person with allergic asthma, these symptoms will begin after inhaling or being exposed to an offending allergen. An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction. Common allergens may include pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and even food, to name just a few. Allergens are considered (for most) to be harmless substances. But, for the patient with allergic asthma, exposure to a particular allergen will set off the immune system which then triggers an asthma exacerbation or flare-up. The diagnosis of asthma is made by a physician. The diagnosis is based on patient history and physical exam, as well as a variety of diagnostic tests, such as pulmonary function testing and chest x-rays. To determine if one’s asthma is allergic asthma, additional testing may be required. These can include the presence of eosinophils, extensive and specific skin testing, and even high levels of nitric oxide during exhalation.
Allergic asthma is treated much the same as any asthma is. The objective is to control the symptoms and lessen the number of exacerbations through that control. The medication regimen usually includes a rescue inhaler, inhaled corticosteroids, and long acting beta agonists.
Until you get your allergies under control you will continue to have problems with your asthma. The first step is finding a good allergist to work in cooperation with your pulmonologist. It will require time and patience on your part. Allergy testing and then treatment is a long process, but well worth the results down the road. You usually see some results in the first year, although minimal. By the second year, you begin to see noticeable improvements. I can honestly say that finding out what I was allergic to (just about everything) and then being treated with immunotherapy changed my life. It was worth every shot!
Response from John Botrell, RRT:
I could write a book on this one. It’s like getting a cold every time you’re exposed to something you’re allergic to. Let’s take pollen for example. So, pollen is harmless to most people. But, if you have allergic asthma like I do, pollen causes me to have cold-like symptoms. My eyes itch. My throat itches. My chest gets tight. I sneeze. This is even worse when I’m exposed to mold spores or dust mites. I have severe allergies to those allergens. I get what you might think of as a really bad cold when exposed to them. To add to the symptoms listed above, I get chest tightness and even shortness of breath. Other symptoms often overlooked are panic and anxiety. You feel all these other symptoms all at once and a sort of panic sets in. Your head itches. You scratch at your head and it does not good. Your head aches and nothing works. You feel fatigue. Your nose itches and you constantly want to swipe at it. Your nose runs, making matters worse. Your chest itches, but you can’t scratch that either. You want all this to go away so you can continue what you are doing. But, it doesn’t go away. The only thing that works is removing yourself from the trigger and taking medicine. No fun. No fair. But, it’s how it is.
And, it’s kind of discouraging even on good asthma days, in a way. I say this because some allergens are hard to avoid, like pollen. Like, how do you go outside without inhaling it. You can’t. And it’s no fun staying indoors. So, you just deal with it. So, frustration can be another symptom.
But, as all of us with chronic ailments, we learn to cope. We cope with the help of our doctors. Both asthma and allergy symptoms can be reversed and controlled. They can be treated and prevented. We do this by working with our doctors to create a daily asthma treatment regimen. This can help control both the allergy and asthma component. This allows us to live symptom-free on most days.
Response from Theresa Cannizzarro, Respiratory Therapist:
Often times allergy induced asthma and non-allergic asthma have the same symptoms. Both include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness to name a few. If you have allergies that specifically set your asthma off, you may also experience itchy, watery eyes, a rash, congestion, hives etc. if you suspect that you have allergy induced asthma, it is very important to have allergy testing done to pinpoint exactly what your allergies are so that you can avoid them and/or add in any medications (such as antihistamines) necessary to keep them at bay. Also be sure to keep track of daily pollen counts and make any preparations necessary to keep your asthma and allergies under the best control possible.