Asthma is a condition in which a person's airways become inflamed and irritated, making it difficult to breathe. Asthmatics may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing. Bouts of asthma can occur for a number of reasons, such as engaging in excessive physical activity, breathing cold air, or getting a respiratory infection. One of the most prominent contributing factors to asthma symptoms, however, is allergic reactions to airborne pathogens or food. Asthma and allergies are commonly paired together when considering treatment options and preventative measures.
The relationship between asthma and allergies is well-documented. Many research studies strongly correlate them with one another, and findings often show that allergy sufferers are more likely to develop asthma symptoms over time. In fact, entire organizations exist to study the relationship between asthma and allergies and inform doctors as well as the general public about the latest breakthroughs in treatment. In the United States, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America provides many different educational resources for sufferers through clinical seminars and their website.
When a person has a severe allergy, his or her body responds by releasing a chemical known as histamine to help fight off pathogens. Histamine can cause the nose, throat, and sinuses to become inflamed. The irritation caused by allergic reactions triggers asthma in people with the condition. The onset of asthma further blocks the throat and bronchial passages, making it difficult to breathe deeply. Individuals may experience pain and wheezing fits to the point of debilitation. Symptoms usually do not subside until the allergen is no longer present and the body has a chance to recover.
Doctors can treat asthma and allergies in a number of different ways. If a person's asthma symptoms arise only when he or she experiences an allergic reaction, the doctor may focus treatment specifically towards the allergens. A patient might be instructed to take oral antihistamines and decongestants or use nasal spray. If allergy-induced asthma symptoms persist, an individual may need to receive regular allergy shots to help desensitize the body, oral antibodies, or inhaled corticosteroids.
Asthma and allergies cannot be cured, but they often subside as a person ages and his or her immune system gets better at combating common pathogens. There are many different preventative measures a person can take to avoid allergens and thereby avert asthma attacks. A person who knows he or she is allergic to a certain type of food, such as peanuts, should check product labels carefully to ensure he or she does not accidentally ingest it. Indoor airborne allergens like dust and pet dander can be controlled by frequent housecleaning and using an air filter. Finally, a person who is subject to outdoor allergens such as mold and pollen can plan his or her outings for when airborne pathogens are at a minimum.