A global campaign of the World Allergy Organisation (WAO), World Allergy Week is marked from June 5 to June 11 to raise awareness of the impact of allergic diseases in our communities and this year, the theme is bronchial asthma and respiratory allergic diseases. According to reports, 2 percent of adults and 6 per cent of children in India suffer from asthma and the disease can be influenced by different factors which include genetics, environment, diet and infections.
Other than all these factors, allergen sensitization has a critical role in the development of the disease, its severity and treatment where studies have revealed that exposure to allergens like animal dander, house dust mite, pollen, fungus or cockroach is a major risk factor for the disease. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Vivek Choudhari, MBBS MS-ENT at Karnika Ear, Nose, Throat and Dental Hospital in Pune's Chakan and Medical Advisor for Entod Pharmaceuticals, shared, “People who suffer from allergic asthma are over-sensitive to certain allergens and once the allergens enter the body, the immune system detects them as a threat and starts to overreact. ”
He added, “Consequently, the muscles surrounding the airways tighten, become inflamed and normal breathing is affected. Often, a patient can have multiple allergies and successful remediation including cleaning, education and reducing the exposure to allergens.”
Common allergens that lead to allergic asthma
Allergens can be found everywhere including the outdoor and indoor environments. Since these allergens can quickly trigger asthmatic symptoms, it is important to be aware of the common allergens that can trigger the disease. Dr Vivek Choudhari listed the allergens that one needs to be aware of:
1. House dust mites - Microscopic in size, house dust mites are usually found in products like pillows, mattresses, bedding and stuffed toys. Humidity and warmth are the major factors that affect their growth and they usually eat skin scales or fungi. Studies have shown that during childhood, dust mite exposure can be considered a vital determinant in the development of asthma.
2. Pets - Dogs and cats which are popularly kept as pets all over the world can be a significant source of allergens inside the house. The allergens are mostly found in the hair, saliva and dander and can easily spread through the air. These allergens can also attach to clothing and further disperse at different places.
3. Cockroach - Cockroach allergen is a huge problem in city homes and a notable reason behind asthma morbidity. Asthma can be triggered by cockroach faeces, body parts and saliva.
4. Pollen - Pollen can not only trigger asthma symptoms but even worsen them in sensitized individuals. Pollen's job is to carry the male gamete and transfer it to the female reproductive organ of a flower through insect dispersal or wind.
Allergic asthma symptoms
Similar to different types of asthma, allergic asthma may cause the same symptoms however, the only difference lies in the trigger. According to Dr Vivek Choudhari, some of the symptoms of allergic asthma include:
3. Rapid breathing
4. Shortness of breath
5. Chest tightness
People with asthma, who also have skin allergies or hay fever, might also experience:
2. Itchy skin
3. Itchy eyes
4. Runny nose
6. Watery eyes
Tips to reduce or eliminate allergens
Dr Vivek Choudhari said, “Avoiding allergens is one of the best ways for asthmatic patients to reduce exposure to substances that might trigger allergies.” He revealed some useful tips for the same:
1. Avoid dust mites - Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in carpets, mattresses and fabrics. To avoid dust mites, it is important to wrap the mattresses and pillows in allergen-proof covers. It is also important to make sure that bedding accessories and sheets are weekly washed in hot water. Areas where dust can gather like upholstered furniture, heavy curtains, etc. should be cleaned properly every week.
2. Bathroom and kitchen should be kept clean and dry - To prevent the growth of moulds and cockroaches, the bathroom and kitchen areas must be kept clean and if required, a pest control company should be contacted.
3. During high pollen count, stay indoors - When the pollen count is high, it is always better to stay indoors and use an air-conditioner with a thoroughly cleaned air filter.
4. Indoor humidity must be kept in check - If the moisture content inside the house is more than 40 per cent, it is always advisable to use an air-conditioner or a dehumidifier. As a result, the air inside will keep dry and prevent the growth of house dust mites, molds and cockroaches.
5. Restrict pets entry into the bedroom - Keep the pets away from the bedrooms and provide them with a safe, clean space outside the house.
Although a cure for asthma isn’t yet available, there are plenty of medications and treatments that can enhance the overall quality of life of a patient. Also, one must avoid areas or substances that can trigger a reaction.