People living with asthma usually experience a similar set of symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. But not all asthma has the same cause.
Allergic asthma is triggered by allergens. These are particles of specific substances — such as pet dander, pollen, or mold spores — that trigger allergies and bring on asthma symptoms.
If you’re living with allergic asthma, you can manage it by working with your doctor to find the right treatment plan and making lifestyle changes to avoid your triggers.
Different substances can potentially cause allergies and lead to asthma symptoms. Once you determine which allergens cause your symptoms, you can avoid those triggers. This helps reduce your risk of asthma attack.
To find out which allergens cause symptoms for you, your doctor can refer you to an allergist. They can run tests — including skin and bloods tests — to identify your triggers. Common triggers for allergic asthma include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and cockroach droppings.
Your doctor may recommend allergy immunotherapy to make your allergies less severe. An allergist will usually oversee and administer this type of treatment. You’ll be given injections and pills with the goal of reducing your sensitivity to specific allergens.
Once you know what’s causing your asthma, you can try to avoid it. This may include taking steps to remove or reduce the allergens in your home.
For example, if dust mites trigger your symptoms, you can reduce their numbers by washing bedding regularly and removing carpets. If mold is the issue, you can start using a dehumidifier in your home and avoid fans that bring in outside air. If pollen affects you, wash your clothing after coming in from outside and keep windows closed.
It may take some time to implement all of the changes you need to make to limit your exposure to particular allergens. But by making the effort, you also reduce your risk of having a severe asthma attack.
With a little organization and planning, you can start tracking your asthma symptoms over time. This may help you and your doctor spot patterns.
Tracking also allows you to prepare for asthma attacks by making you more aware of building symptoms, such as slight wheezing or coughing. When you learn to sense the early signs of an attack, you can take medication, remove yourself from a situation with triggers, or both — before your symptoms worsen.
If you have moderate to severe allergic asthma, your doctor may recommend a peak flow meter. This device measures airflow from your lungs. A peak flow meter may help with early intervention, since it can indicate that your airway has become narrower before you feel symptoms.
The peak flow meter also helps you track your airflow rate on a regular basis. You can use this information to understand your typical peak rate. You can see if your asthma is getting worse and if medications might need adjustment. Knowing your typical rate can also help you determine if an attack is severe enough to seek emergency care.
Working with your doctor, you can create an asthma action plan. The American Lung Association has devised a printable action plan.
This type of document allows you to conduct a day-to-day assessment of your asthma. The action plan identifies the allergens that trigger your asthma. It also lists the medications you’re taking.
An action plan is divided into three zones, according to how you’re feeling. There is guidance in each zone for steps to take. If you’re in the yellow zone, you may take quick-acting medications. In the red zone, you may take medications and also call 911 for assistance.
The specifics of your action plan are unique to you. Your doctor will help you determine what it should contain. It’s a good idea to talk to your family, caregivers, and close friends about the details of your action plan and provide them with a copy.
Even with preventive care, you may still have asthma symptoms that come on without warning. Always keep quick-acting medications with you. These give you temporary relief.
Many people use a bronchodilator, which opens the airway. A bronchodilator is medication that you take through a nebulizer or inhaler.
Anticholinergics are another type of quick-acting medication. These medications stop the muscles in the airway from tightening up. Some people take them on a long-term basis.
If your symptoms don’t improve after using quick-acting medication, you should seek emergency care. If you use your inhaler frequently, you should talk to your doctor. Your asthma action plan may need to be updated.
Even when you’re feeling well, it’s important to keep using long-term medications. There are different kinds of long-acting medications. You may use some or all of these at the advice of your doctor.
- Long-term bronchodilators relax the muscles in your airway.
- Corticosteroids reduce mucus and swelling.
- Anticholinergics prevent muscle tightening.
- Leukotriene modifiers prevent symptoms for 24 hours.
To stay on top of managing your asthma symptoms, be sure to review your medications with your doctor. If your symptoms are getting worse, you may need to change your action plan.
Allergic asthma is caused by exposure to airborne allergens. Different allergens can lead to an asthma attack in different people. For example, some people may be allergic to pollen and dust mites, while others are allergic to mold spores and pet dander.
Proper identification of asthma triggers leads to better treatment. If you live with allergic asthma, you can take steps to avoid your triggers and reduce your risk of an asthma attack. By developing an asthma action plan and using long-term medications, you can stay active and healthy, and reduce your risk of an asthma attack.