Allergic rhinitis and asthma are chronic conditions that cause your body to respond to triggers in various ways. Each person has their own set of triggers and bodily responses.
Allergic rhinitis and asthma both affect the airways and cause respiratory tract symptoms, including feeling short of breath. There are several types of asthma, including allergic asthma, which is the most common form.
This article covers the link between allergies and asthma, including the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Allergies and asthma both affect the airways and share some symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. People can have either allergies or asthma, though it’s not uncommon to have both.
Is asthma an allergic condition?
Not always. There are several types of asthma, many of which are nonallergic.
Allergic asthma triggers include:
Nonallergic asthma triggers include:
- smoke from tobacco or wood fires
- air pollution
- humid or cold weather
- respiratory infections, including colds, sinus infections, and the flu
Can you have both allergic and nonallergic asthma?
Yes, it’s possible to have both allergic and nonallergic asthma if you have triggers with allergic and nonallergic causes. You may have mostly one type or a balanced effect of the two.
Asthma of all types causes mucus and fluid to block the airways, leading to tightness and inflammation. This is what causes the characteristic coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. You may also experience a tight chest or feel short of breath. An asthma attack, flare, or exacerbation occurs when these breathing symptoms are severe.
It may be difficult to distinguish the difference between nonallergic and allergic asthma because they share similar symptoms.
However, one key difference is that usually, people with allergic asthma develop symptoms after being exposed to an allergen. Depending on the type of allergy, they may experience additional nonasthmatic allergy symptoms, including sneezing or a rash.
|Common allergy symptoms||Common asthma symptoms||Allergic asthma symptoms|
|a runny nose||coughing||a runny nose|
|a rash||wheezing||red, watery eyes|
|watery eyes||chest tightness||itchiness near the nose, mouth, and eyes|
|sneezing||shortness of breath||asthma symptoms|
|cramps||a fast heartbeat|
Can my allergies trigger an asthma attack?
Yes, allergies can trigger an asthma attack, which feels similar to a typical asthma attack. If you have allergic asthma, inhaling an allergen can cause shortness of breath along with coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
An asthma attack, which causes inflammation and swelling in the lungs, can occur if these symptoms worsen.
You’ll need to make an appointment with a healthcare professional to receive an allergy diagnosis.
They will review your personal and medical history, perform a physical exam, and order tests to determine your environmental and possible food triggers. It can be helpful to keep a journal of your symptoms along with your diet and environmental conditions (like the pollen count).
An allergic asthma diagnosis also requires a doctor’s confirmation. Usually, they order a skin or blood test to establish if you have allergic asthma due to seasonal or year-round allergies. It’s important to review your family medical history since a combination of genetic and environmental factors may cause allergic asthma.
To diagnose asthma, you’ll also need to schedule an appointment with a doctor. They will give you a physical exam and review your family medical history. If you have a family member with asthma or allergies, you may be more likely to develop asthma.
Your doctor may order a lung function test, and chest or sinus X-ray. If you have allergies, they may order an allergy test to find out if allergies are causing your asthma.
Let your doctor know if you’re having allergy, asthma, or a combination of symptoms as treatment usually requires prescription medication based on your diagnosis.
Do allergies make asthma worse?
Yes, allergies can make asthma worse. If you inhale allergens you’re allergic to, it’s possible to develop asthma symptoms.
Though allergies and asthma are usually long-term conditions, treatments may effectively lower the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
Allergy treatments depend on your medical history and the severity of your condition. Treatment options include avoiding allergens, medications, and immunotherapy.
Asthma treatments include medications and inhalers. If you have allergic asthma, you may have a combination of allergy and asthma treatments.
Living with allergies and asthma
Allergic rhinitis and asthma are common chronic conditions that cause respiratory concerns and difficulty breathing. While allergic rhinitis affects your nasal passageways, asthma primarily affects the airways in the lungs.
When these two conditions combine, it’s called allergic asthma. Many symptoms of allergies and asthma are the same, but the triggers vary.
To diagnose allergies and asthma, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. They will order tests, perform a physical exam, review your medical history, and create a treatment plan if necessary.