Causes Include Pet Dander and Pollen
Medically reviewed by Daniel More, MD
Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. The condition causes attacks when allergens like dust, pet hair, or pollen cause the airways to constrict. That leads to asthma symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing. Allergy-induced asthma symptoms are sometimes referred to simply as asthma. Medically, it’s called extrinsic asthma.
Continue reading to learn more about the relationship betweenb allergies and asthma and what treatments can help.
Anaphylaxis is a dangerous, sometimes deadly, allergic reaction that can share symptoms with allergic asthma, including difficulty breathing and wheezing. When in doubt, call 911 or go to the emergency room if you’re having trouble breathing or experiencing facial swelling as part of an allergic reaction.
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Allergic Asthma and Susceptibility in Children
Allergic asthma is most common in kids, although adults can have it too. Of kids who have asthma, 90% have allergic asthma. Of adults with asthma, 50% have allergic asthma.
The causes of allergic asthma, like other forms of asthma, are very complex. Both your genes and your environment play a role. People who have other allergies and autoimmune conditions are at a greater risk of asthma. You're more likely to have allergic asthma if you have a family member with asthma, hay fever, or eczema.
Likewise, your children are at higher risk of developing allergic asthma if you have it. About half of children with asthma will outgrow the condition by the time they are adults.
Mild Allergic Asthma Symptoms
Asthma, including allergic asthma, has four main symptoms, which are:
These might be mild, but they can also be more serious. If you or your child is experiencing these symptoms, your healthcare provider will ask about when the symptoms occur and may order allergy testing to determine what triggers are contributing to your allergic asthma.
Severe Allergic Asthma Symptoms
About 5% to 10% of people with allergic asthma will experience severe asthma symptoms. With severe asthma, the typical asthma symptoms will be more pronounced and more difficult to manage.
Severe asthma can also cause:
Complete List of Allergic Asthma Triggers
Allergic asthma attacks happen when inhaling a substance you’re allergic to. Many different triggers can cause allergic asthma, just like there are many triggers for hay fever.
Common allergens causing allergic asthma are:
Animal dander, including from dogs, cats, birds, rodents, and other pets
Cockroaches, found in all environments and cockroach allergy is common
Dust mites, microscopic insects that can live in household items like bedding, furniture, and carpets
Pollen and other seasonal allergens
Airborne irritants, including perfumes, pollution, or smoke
Allergic Asthma Attack Without Inhaler
Facing an asthma attack can be scary, especially if you don’t have an inhaler. If this occurs, follow these steps:
Change your posture: Sit up straight, which can open your airways and lungs.
Alter your breathing: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth.
Move away from the trigger: Once you've identified triggers for allergic asthma, make sure to stay away from them.
Drink caffeine: Caffeine can actually soothe your airways during an asthma attack, try sipping a warm cup of coffee or tea.
Call for help: In an emergency, always call 911.
Sometimes, antihistamines can help when someone is having an allergic asthma attack. But these don’t work for everyone, so it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about what’s right for you.
If you or your child has allergic asthma, talk to your healthcare provider about getting an inhaler. This device allows people to breathe medication directly into their lungs to help them breathe easier. Kids who are under the age of 4 might need to use a nebulizer (a device that aerosolizes allergy medication to inhale) instead.
You should also create an asthma action plan. This details what treatments should be administered when symptoms first appear and when symptoms are severe.
Allergic Asthma Treatment: Staying Ahead of Symptoms
The best way to treat allergic asthma attacks is to stop them before they begin. Your healthcare provider should work together with you to develop a treatment plan for your allergies and asthma. This might include treatments like over-the-counter allergy medicine or immunotherapy, which can be taken either orally in pill or liquid forms or as by injection, sometimes referred to as allergy shots.
Although you can’t prevent all allergic asthma attacks, you can make them less frequent by:
Recognizing and avoiding your triggers
Recognizing symptoms and intervening early
Using medications as prescribed, including daily preventive medications
Ongoing Health With Allergic Asthma
Asthma is linked to lots of other serious illnesses, ranging from lung scarring to anxiety. The best way to prevent these complications is by working closely with your healthcare provider to control your allergic asthma. Educate yourself about living with asthma, and find a healthcare provider that you trust.
Allergic asthma is asthma that’s triggered by inhaling something you’re allergic to. It’s the most common form of asthma, especially in children. If you or your child has allergic asthma, limiting exposure to triggers like pet dander or pollen is important. You should also work with your healthcare provider to have an asthma action plan so that you know what to do during mild or more severe attacks.