Asthma is categorized as a chronic lung disease causing inflammation of the airways and breathing difficulty. Asthma affects more that 17 million Americans. An additional 26 million Americans have allergic rhinitis (“hay fever”).
Asthma symptoms of include:
- difficulty breathing
- tightness in the chest.
Asthma symptoms can be triggered by allergies, exercise, emotional stress, airborne irritants and odors, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), and the common cold. While not all cases of asthma are due to allergies, a significant percentage is due to allergens, particularly the airborne allergens that cause hay fever. Common allergy-induced asthma triggers include:
- pollen and mold
- pet dander
- dust mite and cockroach droppings
- medications, such as beta blockers and cold remedies
- foods, such as peanuts and shellfish.
British Medical Journal concluded that common allergens, such as dust mites and pet dander, might act together with respiratory viruses to make asthma symptoms worse. The study also suggested that the probability of asthma sufferers being hospitalized increases considerably if they are exposed to allergens.
Immunotherapy: Reducing Allergy Symptoms in Asthma Sufferers
Immunotherapy is often used to help reduce allergy symptoms in asthmatics. Only an allergist- immunologist or other specialist physician should prescribe the treatment. Also, immunotherapy should be administered only in facilities specifically equipped to deal with anaphylaxis.
Immunotherapy involves a series of injections, each containing minute quantities of substances such as dust mite allergen, pollen, mold spores, animal dander or any other substance to which the patient has tested positive in an allergy skin test. Food allergens are not included in immunotherapy as the effectiveness of their inclusion has not been proven.
Immunotherapy “shots” are administered once or twice a week, during the build up phase. Once the condition is stabilized (after approximately three to four months), the frequency is reduced to a maintenance level of an injection every two to three weeks. Immunotherapy may continue for several years.
Although still the subject of ongoing research, immunotherapy has been shown to “switch off” the abnormal allergic reactions triggered by allergens.
Most asthmatics respond well to immunotherapy. However, a small percentage fails to respond. In these cases, treatment is discontinued. Occurrences of fatal anaphylaxis as a result of immunotherapy treatment are rare.
Here are a few simple, practical measures you can take in your everyday life to improve your health, minimize risk of exposure to potential allergens, and lessen the frequency of your asthma symptoms:
- If you are a smoker, the most useful thing you can do for yourself is to stop. Right now.
- Avoid passive smoking: Steer clear of bars, clubs or other environments in which your ability to enjoy clean air is compromised.
- Insist on clean air in your home.
- The workplace is a danger zone for allergy-induced asthma attacks. Take positive steps to remove yourself from dangerous allergens that you know may trigger an attack.
- Have your vehicle checked for exhaust emissions.
- Try to avoid driving in dense traffic.
Cat Allergy: New Hope for Asthmatic Cat-Lovers!
Until recently, accepted wisdom on the subject was simply to get rid of the cat. Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, head of Allergy and Asthma at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, holds an opinion that gladdens the hearts of cat lovers.
According to Platts-Mills, not enough evidence supports the standard recommendation to families with allergies or asthma that they “get rid of the cat.” New studies have revealed that, in cases of childhood asthma, if a child tests positive for allergies to dust mites and pollen, but negative for cat dander and the parents still get rid of the cat, the child may later become allergic to cats.