Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
Almost all of us are allergic to something or the other. Getting in contact with pollen might give sneezing fits to some of us, while others might get rashes due to mold or cold air. Though these allergic reactions to such environmental triggers are common, in some cases they can induce an asthma attack. And because these triggers are everywhere, it is important for everyone to know what allergic asthma is and how it is different from an allergy.
What is an allergy?
Our immune system’s job is to protect us from viruses and bacteria. However, it sometimes identifies non-threatening substances like pollen or pet dander as a danger. These substances which trigger allergies are called an allergen.
Upon coming in contact with these allergens, your immune system identifies them and produces IgE antibodies which in turn cause the release of chemicals like histamine. This chemical causes swelling and inflammation and creates allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing as your body tries to get rid of the allergens.
[Also read – 11 best allergy fighting food]
What is allergic asthma?
In allergic asthma, your airways are extra sensitive to allergens. Once they enter your body, your immune system overreacts to their presence and produces IgE. Too much of it can tighten the airways and cause inflammation. This condition can make breathing difficult, thereby triggering an asthma attack.
Some of the most common allergens that you should look out for are:
- Pet dander
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution
- Strong odors
- Chemical fumes
- Dust mites
What are the symptoms of allergic asthma?
Symptoms of allergic asthma are the same as those of non-allergic asthma. They are:
- Chest tightness
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Itchy skin
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Swollen face or tongue
- Tingly mouth
[Also read – 7 common asthma triggers that can cause an asthma attack]
Tips to avoid an allergic asthma attack
Your first step should be to identify allergens that trigger your symptoms. To do that, your doctor may run certain skin and blood tests to identify which allergens are a problem for you. Once that is done, you can prepare to avoid those allergens and reduce your risk of an asthma attack.
Here are some tips which can help you to avoid allergens:
Stay indoors when the pollen count is high. Keep the doors and windows closed to stop pollen from entering your home. Use an air conditioner with a clean filter and dehumidifiers to reduce the count of pollen indoors. Also, avoid tasks like gardening, lawn mowing, and dusting.
These microscopic bugs found in many homes live in fabrics and carpets. Use dust-proof mattress and pillow covers. Wash your sheets and other bedding every week in hot water. Don’t use down-filled pillows, quilts, and comforters. Get rid of things where dust can gather like heavy curtains and upholstered furniture.
You can’t do anything about humidity outside but can definitely make efforts to reduce it at home. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to dry out the air. It will also keep the growth of mold, dust mites, and cockroaches at bay. If there’s any water leakage, get that fixed too.
[Also read – How your diet can help you deal with asthma]
If pets are the cause of your trigger, then, if possible, find a new home for them. At the very least, keep them outside of your bedroom. Reduce the exposure to allergens by vacuuming and damp dusting every week. Bath or change clothes after playing with them.
Mold is often found in damp areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. To reduce mold exposure you must dry damp items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent the growth of mold. Any kind of water leaks should be fixed. Use air conditioner and dehumidifiers to keep the levels of humidity low. If mold has already grown on various surfaces, scrub it off with detergent and water.
Air pollution can come from many sources – factories, cars, or wildfires. Again, there’s not much you can do about it. But, keep a check on the levels of pollution every day and plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
While it may not be possible to eliminate these triggers from your life completely, you can definitely reduce exposure to avoid asthma attacks.