Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting about 60 percent of people with the condition. It’s brought on by airborne allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, and more.
Symptoms include trouble breathing, coughing, and wheezing. These can be life-threatening in the event of a severe attack.
Your doctor is an essential source of information and advice on treating your asthma. Bring your own questions about managing the condition to each of your appointments. If you’re not sure what to ask, here are a few topics to help you get started.
Allergic asthma is a long-term condition, but also involves episodes, or attacks, when you’ll need quick relief.
Your doctor may recommend both ongoing and short-term treatments to reduce symptoms. They’ll typically start by determining the severity of your symptoms before recommending specific treatments.
Determining asthma severity
There are four categories of asthma. Each category is based on asthma severity, which is measured by the frequency of your symptoms.
- Intermittent. Symptoms occur up to two days a week or wake you up at night at most two nights a month.
- Mild persistent. Symptoms occur more than twice a week, but no more than once a day, and wake you up at night 3–4 times a month.
- Moderate persistent. Symptoms occur daily and wake you up at night more than once a week but not every night.
- Severe persistent. Symptoms occur throughout the day on most days and often wake you up at night.
It’s important to track and monitor your symptoms to see if they’re improving. Your doctor may recommend using a peak flow meter to measure your lung function. This can help you determine if your asthma is getting worse, even if you don't feel different.
Many people with asthma carry an inhaler, which is a type of bronchodilator. A quick-acting bronchodilator is one you can use in the event of an attack. It opens up your airways and makes it easier for you to breathe.
Quick-acting medications should make you feel better quickly and prevent a more serious attack. If they don’t help, you must seek emergency care.
Your doctor may prescribe other medications that you only need to take for a short time when your symptoms flare. These include corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory drugs that help with airway inflammation. They often come in pill form.
Long-term allergic asthma medications are designed to help you manage the condition. Most of these are taken on a daily basis.
- Inhaled corticosteroids. These are anti-inflammatory medications such as fluticasone (Flonase), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler), mometasone (Asmanex), and ciclesonide (Alvesco).
- Leukotriene modifiers. These are oral medications that relieve symptoms for up to 24 hours. Examples include montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate), and zileuton (Zyflo).
- Long-acting beta agonists. These medications open the airways and are taken in combination with a corticosteroid. Examples include salmeterol (Serevent) and formoterol (Foradil).
- Combination inhalers. These inhalers are a combination of a beta agonist and a corticosteroid.
Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication. It's important to maintain good communication with your physician so they can determine if your type or dose of medication needs to change.
Allergic asthma is brought on by specific particles called allergens. To identify which ones cause you problems, your doctor may ask you when and where you experience allergy symptoms.
An allergist can also perform skin and blood tests to determine what you’re allergic to. If certain triggers are found, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy, which is a medical treatment that reduces sensitivity to allergens.
Your doctor may also recommend allergen avoidance. This means you’ll have to keep your home free of particles that cause allergic reactions.
You may also have to avoid going places where you have a higher chance of having an attack because of allergens in the air. For example, you may need to stay inside on days when the pollen count is high or remove carpets in your home to avoid dust.
Allergens are the root cause of allergic asthma. By staying away from these allergens, you can help prevent asthma symptoms.
The lifestyle changes you need to make depend on your specific triggers. In general, you can help reduce attacks by allergen-proofing your home and modifying your daily outdoor activities to prevent exposure.
Asthma is a chronic condition, and there isn’t a cure. You may not be experiencing symptoms, but you still need to stay on track with your long-term medications.
It’s also important to avoid your allergic triggers. By using a peak flow meter, you can get an early indicator that your air flow rate is changing, even before you feel an attack beginning.
Always keep quick-acting medications with you. These should help you feel better within 20 to 60 minutes.
If your symptoms don’t improve or continue to get worse, go to an emergency room or dial 911. Severe symptoms that warrant an emergency room visit include not being able to talk or walk due to shortness of breath and blue lips or fingernails.
Keep a copy of your asthma action plan on you so people around you have the necessary information to help.
If your medications don’t seem to be working, you may have to modify your treatment plan.
Symptoms of allergic asthma can change over time. Some long-term medications might be less effective as time goes on. It’s important to discuss symptom and medication changes with your doctor.
Using an inhaler or other quick-acting medications too often is a sign that your allergic asthma isn’t under control. Talk to your doctor about your current treatment options and whether you’ll need to make any changes.
There’s no cure for allergic asthma. Therefore, it’s important to adhere to your treatments and follow your doctor’s advice.
Doing so can prevent severe complications, such as airway remodeling, which is permanent narrowing of the breathing passages. This complication affects how well you can inhale air in and exhale air out of your lungs.
Maintaining a good relationship with your doctor helps you have the right information and support for allergic asthma. Your doctor can discuss your treatment options in-depth.
Both quick-acting and long-term medications can help you manage your condition, and lifestyle changes can reduce exposure to your triggers. Taking these steps to manage your allergic asthma can make it easier to live a healthy, happy life.