Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. An estimated 20 million Americans have it. Environmental triggers, such as pollen or dust mites, are the cause of this form of asthma. These triggers are typically harmless, but for someone with a sensitivity and asthma, these triggers can mean the difference between a good day and a bad one. This is why understanding what causes allergic asthma is important. If you know what causes an episode, you can prevent it.

What Is Allergic Asthma?

People with asthma often live with chronically inflamed airways. Medications are available to prevent the airways from closing. From time to time, however, certain things can aggravate the airways, and they may begin to swell, tighten, and stop air from passing in and out of the lungs. These triggers, known as allergens, can include materials such as pollen, pet dander, cigarette smoke, or mold spores. When you inhale an allergen you’re sensitive to, your body responds by triggering inflammation and swelling in the lungs and bronchial tubes. This can lead to wheezing and breathing difficulties.

What Causes Allergic Asthma?

Allergens trigger allergic asthma. Most common allergens do not normally cause harm to people. If you are not sensitive to the allergen, you may inhale it and not notice any problems. That’s not true for people with allergic asthma, however. Allergic asthma patients may begin experiencing asthma symptoms shortly after exposure to allergens.

The most common allergens include:

  • dust mites
  • pet dander
  • cockroach droppings
  • pollen
  • mold and mildew
  • fumes or odors
  • gases
  • smoke
  • changes in weather
  • stress

What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Asthma?

Allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma share many of the same symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest tightness
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain

How Is Allergic Asthma Treated?

There are three types of medications that can be used for treatment of allergic asthma. One type treats your body’s reaction to the allergen. The other two types of medicine treat the asthma and the lungs. One acts over the long-term and is taken every day. The other works quickly to ease symptoms during an asthma attack.

The most commonly used allergy medicines include:

  • allergy shots: Immunotherapy can gradually reduce your body’s immune response. To do this, an immunologist will inject you with very small amounts of an allergen over a long period of time. Eventually, your immune system that does not overreact to the presence of that specific allergen.
  • antihistamines: These medications can reduce the immune system’s allergic response to an allergen.
  • montelukast: These medications can relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis, or the symptoms you experience when you breathe in an allergen.
  • nasal sprays: Nasal sprays depending on the medications they contain generally ease allergy symptoms.
  • eye drops: These drops can wash allergens out of the eye and depending on the medications they contain may prevent allergic symptoms such as watery, itchy eyes.
  • emergency allergy medication: Emergency medicines like epinephrine are used for treatment of severe allergic responses such as anaphylaxis.
  • topical treatments: Ointments and creams can ease allergy symptoms that affect your skin, such as hives and itching.
  • immunomodulators: These medicines work to suppress the immune system and prevent a faulty overreaction caused by an allergen.
  • oral corticosteroids: This type of medicine can treat a severe allergic response and may be used to treat an emergency asthma event.

The most commonly prescribed asthma medications include:

  • long-term asthma control medications: These medicines are taken daily to suppress asthma symptoms.
  • short-acting beta-agonists: These medications provide immediate, temporary symptom relief. Bronchodilators are typically short-term beta-agonists.
  • inhaled corticosteroids: These breathable medicines can be used long-term to prevent and control symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids are sometimes used with long-acting beta-agonists to make the treatments more effective over a longer period of time.
  • quick-relief medications: You take these medicines to relieve asthma symptoms when they occur.

Can Allergic Asthma Be Prevented?

Long-term treatment can help prevent flare-ups, which prevents symptoms. The best way to prevent a flare-up is to avoid your triggers. In the case of allergic asthma, you should avoid the allergens that cause an asthma flare. Your allergist can help you identify these triggers. If you avoid your triggers, you should be able to prevent an allergic asthma flare.

Stick to Your Management Plan

An asthma management plan is designed to address your allergic asthma needs. If taken correctly, medicines should help ease symptoms and prevent serious complications. However, medications may become less effective or begin causing side effects unexpectedly. Review your medications with your doctor on a regular basis. Be sure to let your doctor know if your course of treatment seems to no longer work as well. It’s also important to mention if your medications have begun causing side effects or issues that they have not caused previously. With your doctor’s help, you can handle and prevent allergic asthma.