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Asthma And Allergies. What Is The Connection?

Many people have both asthma and allergies, although these two conditions aren’t always connected.  About 60% of the 25 million Americans with asthma have so-called allergic asthma, as the symptoms are triggered by allergens. They also have various forms of allergies. The remaining 40% of people have so-called nonallergic asthma, which can be induced by exercise, work environment triggers, or other causes. Let’s review in this article how allergic asthma and allergies are connected and some tips to prevent the symptoms. 

Can Asthma Be Caused By Allergies?

Allergens such as pollen and dust can trigger symptoms of asthma, and also acute attacks of asthma in those with allergic asthma. 

When exposed to substances they are allergic to, people with this form of asthma develop typical symptoms of asthma such as coughing which worsens at night or during exercise, shortness of breath, wheezing, and tightness in the chest.

Allergens trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals because the immune system thinks those substances are dangerous and releases so-called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Excess IgE leads to inflammation of the airways, and the typical symptoms of asthma. 

Which Allergens Are More Likely To Trigger Asthma Symptoms? 

 It is important to seek an allergy specialist for evaluation and get blood or allergy tests to detect the allergens which vary from one person to another. The following allergens are found more often to be associated with allergic asthma:

  • Dust Mites. These tiny creatures can be seen with the naked eye, but are very common in the bedroom (mattresses, pillows, bedcovers, stuffed toys), and also on the carpet,upholstered sofas and chairs,  or on clothes. They feed on skin flakes. The body of the dust mites and their feces are allergens. 
  • Mold. Mold is found indoors in all the places where moisture is present- like basements, showers, or bathtubs and outdoors in the soil or leaves of the plants. can grow on almost anything when moisture is present.  Outdoor mold typically causes allergy and asthma symptoms in the summer and fall, while the indoor mold can affect susceptible people all year around. Mold produces spores that become airborne. When the spores get in the nose they cause symptoms of allergies, and when they reach the lungs they trigger asthma symptoms
  • Cockroaches. While cockroaches are mostly associated with tropical and rural areas, they are in fact found in many urban places in hot and cold climates. The salive, feces and body of cockroaches are allergens. Even dead cockroaches trigger allergic reactions. 
  • Pets. Not only the dander, but also saliva, urine and feces of a pet are allergens. While the pet hair is not an allergen, it can be covered by  dander, urine and saliva as well as dust or pollen and become an allergen. “Hypoallergenic” pets do not exist. 
  • Pollen. Pollen is a very common allergen, and although they cause seasonal allergies and asthma symptoms, some can linger in the home all year around. Grasses are the number 1 cause of pollen allergy, while ragweed is a top cause of weed allergies. Many trees produce pollen but birch, cedar and oak are well known to create highly allergenic pollen. 


How To Avoid The Triggers (Allergens)  

  • To reduce the dust mites in your home, start working on your bedroom. There are zipper dust proof covers that can be used to cover pillows and mattresses. Choose hypoallergenic fabrics and wash them weekly  in warm or hot water. Synthetic colors can trigger allergies too, thus is best to avoid colored fabric. Avoid wall to wall carpets and upholstered furniture. Use steam cleaners or other cleaners that have been tested and can effectively kill dust mites. Regular vacuums do not remove all the dust mites or their waste. Keep the humidity in the home below 50%.  Wear a mask when you clean the home or ask someone without allergy to dust mites to clean it for you.
  • To reduce mold in the home, it is important to improve the airflow using air conditioners that are certified asthma and allergy friendly. Use exhaust fans, quickly fix any leaks in the bathroom, kitchen, or basement and eliminate any source of dampness. Limit trips outside when the mold counts are high or wear a dust mask as needed. 
  • To avoid exposure to cockroaches. First, check Google images to get familiar how they look in different stages (ie eggs, nymph, adult) so you can recognize them. Make sure you cover all trash cans, store food in airtight containers and  keep the kitchen clean. Do not leave pet food outside, repair any leaks under sinks and in the basements and seal cracks in the walls. Instead of using insect sprays (which can trigger allergies), use baits and traps to catch cockroaches. 
  • How to avoid exposure to pets. Ideally it is best to not have a pet if you are allergic to that pet. However, if you already have pets you can reduce the exposure by not allowing them in the bedroom, using HEPA air cleaner and cleaning the home regularly. It is also important to wash the pet and their pillows weekly. 
  • How to avoid exposure to pollen. The best way is to limit the time spent outdoors when the pollen count is high. It is also important to keep the windows closed and use an air conditioner which is certified asthma and allergy friendly filter at home.  Take a shower and wash your clothes when you get home and wash the bed sheets in hot water weekly.

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