Asthma and allergies actually have a lot in common. People with asthma aren't always allergic and it doesn't mean someone will have asthma for sure if they do have allergies, but they occur together frequently.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes swelling in the airways, making it harder to breathe for patients. Allergies, on the other hand, are immune system reactions to foreign substances, and inflammation caused by this reaction can happen in many places in the body such as the skin, sinuses, airways, or the digestive system.
Asthma and allergies, what is the difference?
The main difference between asthma and allergies is the location of the reaction. If the reaction happens in the nose, like congestion and sneezing, this is a sign of an allergy. But it can happen in the lungs as well, and the person can experience asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This is called allergic asthma.
How do allergic reactions trigger asthma?
Allergic reactions happen because the antibodies in the immune system identify a harmless substance as harmful by mistake. So, to protect the body from it, antibodies bind themselves to this allergen. These chemicals that are released are the reason for allergy symptoms like runny noses or skin reactions. But, for some people, the symptoms don't end there, they can affect the lungs and the airways as well, which leads to asthma symptoms.
The symptoms of an allergic asthma attack are the same as any other regular asthma attack. The difference between them is the cause of the asthma attack. This does not mean all asthma is allergic, but allergic asthma is seen very commonly.
How is allergic asthma diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing asthma can be done based on lung tests such as spirometry, but diagnosing the allergies part of allergic asthma also involves a history, a blood test, or a skin test to pinpoint the triggering agents for the disease.
Management and treatment options may look different for each patient, but generally, it involves a two-pronged approach. Part one is to manage and treat the allergies, and part two involves monitoring for the effects of asthma on the lungs and treating based on that.
Asthma and allergies: treatment options
For allergies, the use of antihistamines is recommended. Identifying the allergens and staying away from them is also crucial.
With asthma, constant monitoring is vital to the management of the disease. The treatments can be summed up in two broad categories, quick relief (like oral corticosteroids) and long-term relief (like inhaled corticosteroids).
Because asthma can severely affect lung capacity and in turn, the life quality of the patient, devices like SpiroHome Personal that allow patients to be monitored from the comfort of their homes are key to the management and treatment processes. SpiroHome Personal also connects to SpiroCloud and ensures that the healthcare teams can check on their patient's lung values. This means the dose of the medicine the patient is taking can be altered accordingly to the state of their lungs.
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- "What is Allergic Asthma?", Allergy & Asthma Network.
- "What’s the Difference Between Allergy and Asthma & Medication Options", Florida Medical Clinic, 2016.