Allergies and asthma are two common conditions. More than 50 million people in the United States (1 in 6 Americans) across all ages and ethnic groups experience some type of allergy, including allergies to mold, pollen, and pet dander; certain foods and medications; latex; and insect venom.
Asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States, including more than five million children.
At Apex Allergy and Asthma in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Mark C. Stahl treats people of all ages affected by allergies and asthma. Given that these conditions often present with similar symptoms, many patients want to know if there’s a difference — or connection — between the two. Here’s what our doctor has to say.
Your immune system is designed to protect your body against foreign and harmful invaders, from pathogens to environmental toxins. However, sometimes it gets confused and views normally harmless substances like peanuts, shellfish, animal dander, pollen, or latex as harmful, and it mounts an attack against that substance in an effort to protect you.
The symptoms you experience result from a chain of events your body initiates against the invader. It makes antibodies that latch onto the substance causing the release of histamines that trigger your allergy symptoms.
Typical signs and symptoms of an environmental allergy include:
You may develop one overriding symptom, or any combination of symptoms.
As a chronic lung disease that affects your airways, asthma is characterized by repeated flare-ups, or breathing attacks. With normal breathing, the muscles around your airways relax, allowing air to move in and out easily and quietly. With an asthma attack, though, you may experience:
As your airways tighten, normal breathing might become labored wheezing. Other signs of asthma resemble those of an allergy or respiratory infection:
You may not experience every symptom with each flare — you can have different symptoms at different times, and your symptoms may change from one attack to the next.
As we’ve seen, allergies and asthma are two separate conditions. However, there’s often a close, interconnected relationship between the two. Allergic asthma is a condition where your airways tighten when you inhale an allergen, or a substance that triggers an allergic response in your body. Allergens are also known as asthma triggers when they prompt an asthma attack.
When your immune system comes in contact with an allergen, it creates a chemical antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). While this normally serves to “protect” your body from the substance, high amounts of IgE combined with your allergen can cause your airways to tighten and make it difficult to breathe. This can cause you to experience symptoms of both an allergy attack and an asthma flare-up.
Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. Of the 25 million Americans who have asthma, some 60% (3 in 5 people) have asthma that’s triggered by allergies. The symptoms of an allergic asthma attack are identical to a normal asthma attack; the only difference is the triggering cause.
If you have asthma, there’s a good chance you have allergies as well. Fortunately, our team at Apex Allergy and Asthma offers effective treatments and long-term management solutions to help with both. To learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Stahl, call 210-239-0302 today, or book online with us any time.