Is There a Connection Between Allergies and Asthma?
At first, it is necessary to roughly define the medical conditions we are talking about – asthma and allergies. Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways characterized by recurring inflammations of the bronchial tubes. The mucous membrane of asthma patients is permanently inflamed and/or irritated, leading to the classic symptoms bronchoconstriction, tightness of the chest, breathlessness and coughing as well as fatigue. It has two major causes: the genetic disposition that makes the tubes react sensitively to special irritations and allergens or infections which trigger the typical causes of dyspnoea. It is a clear indicator of asthma that some of its symptoms recede after an asthma attack. Up to today, there is no cure for asthma; with effective medical treatment, however, patients can live a good life. Particularly affected are children – asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood.
Allergies occur if “a person’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people” (Ascia 1). Apart from that, people developing an allergy are atopic, i.e., the sufferers show a genetic predisposition to develop a hypersensitivity to one or several substances. In general, every substance might be an allergen, the “most common causes of allergic reactions in Australia are dust mites, pollen (grass, weed or trees) and foods (peanuts, cow’s milk, soy, seafood, and eggs)” (Ascia 2). Hay fever, for example, is caused by grasses, weeds or polls of shrubs and trees. Its medical term is Allergic Rhinitis, and the main symptoms are a “runny nose, itchy eyes mouth or skin, sneezing, a stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion, fatigue” (Accai 1).
THE CONNECTION: ALLERGIC TRIGGERS
There exist various forms of asthma. People who suffer from intrinsic asthma experience defense responses – these are not caused by allergens. Asthma might also develop by inhaling dust, fumes or chemicals. Apart from this, there exist various elicitors such as feverish infections, low temperatures or great efforts.
In about 80 % of all cases, however, asthma is caused by allergens – which makes us understand the first connection between allergies and asthma. As allergens always come from the outside of the body, this form is generally known as extrinsic or allergic asthma. It principally breaks out in childhood, but also grown-ups may be affected. If patients get into contact with allergens, e.g., animal hair, all kinds of polls or grasses as well as dust mites, their body reacts with an asthma attack. But what happens in the body of an allergy sufferer? It is also interesting to understand how the human body reacts to allergens. In general, an allergic reaction is based on a three-step procedure: At first, the allergist gets into contact with an allergen, i.e., the substance a body reacts allergically on. Through this contact, his body becomes hypersensitive without showing allergic symptoms. Afterward, the human system reacts with the formation of Immunoglobin and mast cells responsible for the inflammation. The second contact with the allergen of the same sort with the mast cell leads to the distribution of inflammatory substances – which in turn results in an allergic reaction and the occurrence of the typical symptoms.
A second connection lies in the so-called “Allergic March” respectively “Atopic March.” It occurs in the later phases of an allergy and is characterized by a worsening of symptoms. If the allergy is not treated in a proper way, however, the so-called allergic march commences. Applied on the example “hay fever” this means that the patients at first labor temporarily under the typical symptoms sneezing, wheezing, a running nose or itching. At this stage, medical therapy should begin. It “also predicts that people with a strong allergic component will progress and likely develop …. Asthma” (Allergychoices 1). Otherwise, the allergens penetrate deeper into the respiratory system, the symptoms increase. Apart from that, the allergy gradually becomes a chronic disease that is aggravated if the person is again exposed to allergens. In the end, the allergic march turns temporary attacks of hay fever into chronical asthma. To fight the lasting effects of asthma, it is necessary to reduce the allergen exposure and start immunotherapy.
WATCH OUT FOR CLEAR SYMPTOMS
Persons who have many allergists in the family have genetic predisposition to develop asthma. These persons and children are particularly fragile. If you suffer from regularly recurring symptoms like coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath you should take notice. You should also renounce from habits which might worsen your condition. If you smoke, stop smoking and refrain from using too many cosmetics or odors, reduce them – also trying to find to what your body reacts allergically on.
In case you cannot find a clear explanation for the signs you should consult your physician as soon as possible to find the cause, identify the allergen(s) and receive the right treatment.
- Ascia; “What is Allergy?”; “Information for patients, consumers and carers”; https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_What_is_allergy_2017.pdf; www.allergy.org.au; 2017; Balgowlah NSW Australia – Accessed: 26th July 2017
- Accai.org “Allergic Rhinitis?”; “Types of Allergies” http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis; http://acaai.org; 2014; Arlington Heights, USA – Accessed: 26th July 2017
- Theresa Lorenz, Allergychoices; “Can Allergy Drops Stop the Allergic March?” – “Blog”; https://www.allergychoices.com/can-allergy-drops-stop-allergic-march/ ; https://www.allergychoices.com/; Publication Date: May 4, 2016; Onalaska, WI 54650 – Accessed: 26th July 2017.
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