Allergic asthma is asthma caused by an allergic reaction. It’s also known as allergy-induced asthma. You may have allergic asthma if you have trouble breathing during allergy season.
People with allergic asthma usually start feeling symptoms after inhaling an allergen such as pollen. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that more than half of people with asthma have allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is treatable in most cases.
You develop allergies when your immune system overreacts to the presence of a harmless substance called an allergen. Some people may develop breathing problems from inhaling allergens. This is known as allergic asthma. It occurs when the airways swell as part of an allergic reaction.
In general, inhaled allergens cause allergic asthma. Some allergens that can cause this condition include:
- pet dander
- dust mites
- tobacco smoke
- air pollution
- strong odors, including scented lotions and perfumes
- chemical fumes
Cockroaches, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, wheat, and tree nuts can also cause allergic asthma. However, an asthmatic reaction to these allergens is less common, but may be serious.
Allergic asthma and regular asthma have the same symptoms. They include:
- chest tightness
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
If you have hay fever or skin allergies, you might also experience:
- itchy skin
- flaky skin
- runny nose
- itchy eyes
- watery eyes
If you swallowed the allergen, these symptoms might be present as well:
- swollen face or tongue
- tingly mouth
- swollen mouth, throat, or lips
- anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
A skin prick test is the common way to check for allergies. Your doctor will poke your skin with a needle containing a small amount of an allergen. After 20 minutes, your doctor will check your skin for red bumps. These bumps are a sign of an allergic reaction.
Additional tests that can check whether you have asthma along with your allergies include:
- spirometry: measures the amount of air you inhale and exhale. This test looks for narrowing in the bronchial tubes of your lungs.
- peak flow: measures air pressure as you breathe out. This is a simple test of lung function.
- lung function: tests check whether your breathing improves after you use an asthma medication (bronchodilator). If this medication improves your breathing, you probably have asthma.
Treating allergic asthma can involve treating the allergy, the asthma, or both.
To treat your asthma, your doctor may prescribe inhaled anti-inflammatory medication or oral medications that help block the allergic response. The asthma inhaler prevents asthma and is usually prescribed for daily use. Another fast-acting relief inhaler treats asthma symptoms when they occur.
Allergy treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. You may need an antihistamine to deal with classic allergy symptoms such as itching. You might also need allergy shots if your symptoms are more severe.
Allergic asthma can have serious complications. One complication is anaphylaxis. This type of severe allergic reaction may have symptoms such as:
- mouth or facial swelling
- difficulty swallowing
- nasal congestion
- slurred speech
Untreated anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. It may cause problems such as an abnormal heart rate, weakness, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, cardiac arrest, and pulmonary arrest.
Allergic asthma attacks aren’t always preventable. However, you may be able to make them less frequent by changing your environment.
Dust and vacuum regularly and use a HEPA filter. This can reduce the number of allergens in your environment.
Keep your windows and doors closed when pollen counts are high. Pollen is a common allergen. It triggers asthma-like symptoms in people with hay fever. If pollen makes you wheeze, see your doctor.
Don’t use an air conditioner or fan that smells like mold. Purchase new appliances if necessary. Mold can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. It’s also potentially life-threatening when inhaled. Remove any traces of mold from your walls or floors using a mold-removing cleaner.
Mattress and pillow covers are often suggested as means to decrease the allergen exposure to dust mites, but there is debate over whether the cost is worth the benefit.
Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner if the humidity in your home rises above 40 percent.
Avoid keeping animals indoors if you have pet allergies. You may need to avoid animals completely if you have severe allergies.
Clean and disinfect your kitchen and bathroom to prevent cockroaches.
Wear a HEPA mask when you garden. This can help you avoid inhaling pollen or mold.