How can an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that involves the lungs. It is one of the most common diseases affecting children with an estimated population prevalence rate of 8 to 12% in Australia.
Asthma is characterised by inflammation and reversible and irreversible narrowing of the small airways in the lungs.
The link between asthma and allergy
For many people, allergies are a leading cause of asthma and can impact how serious their asthma attacks are. While not everyone with allergies has asthma and vice versa, the two conditions are both very common, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.
Research shows that 80 percent of people with asthma also test positive to allergies, many of them experiencing allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Other triggers will symptoms include viral infections, exercise, emotion or exposure to cold.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Asthma generally has the following symptoms:
A dry, persistent cough
Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
A heavy, tight sensation in the chest
Asthma symptoms can be acute and intermittent or chronic, or sometimes a combination of both.
What is thunderstorm asthma?
You’d think (perhaps understandably) that rain would make life a bit easier for people who experience allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and asthma. Unfortunately, thunderstorms can actually trigger asthma attacks and make the symptoms of allergic rhinitis worse.
Thunderstorms tend to release lots of small particles of pollen into the air, which can trigger allergic rhinitis and asthma. Fast changes in wind and temperature can also be triggers.
Not all thunderstorms will trigger asthma attacks and other weather factors can also contribute. When a thunderstorm that does trigger asthma comes along (luckily, these are reasonably rare), lots of people may experience asthma attacks all at once. These people won’t all have pollen allergies – other triggers like the changes in temperature and humidity can also be triggers.
How do you find out if an allergy is playing a role in your asthma?
It’s best to book in to your GP. Your doctor will perform either skin prick tests or blood tests to see if any of the antibodies indicating allergies are present. You’ll likely be referred on to a specialist allergist/immunologist for more testing or advice if needed.
Effective management of asthma involves control of allergy
Asthma is a chronic disease and associated with significant morbidity. Asthma management needs a comprehensive plan that besides medications (asthma preventers and relievers) should include screening for allergies, allergen avoidance, and sometimes allergen immunotherapy. The plan should be prepared by your GP with necessary input from an Allergist or respiratory physician as needed.