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Many people with asthma have allergies that make their asthma worse. Sometimes it is called “allergy asthma” or “allergic asthma”. If you have asthma and allergies, it’s important to:
Allergies can cause many different symptoms. You may have one or more of these symptoms:
Each person has their own set of allergens. They can be allergic to one or to many things. Some allergens are easy to figure out – especially if you strongly react to them. Others can be more difficult to determine.
To find out what you are allergic to, see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist – a specialist doctor who is an expert on allergies. The allergist will ask you many questions about your medical history and your home and work environments: where you live and work, what substances you handle, what floor covering, pets or plants are in your home, when you notice your symptoms getting worse, etc. The allergist will also do a skin prick or scratch test to see what you may be allergic to.
This test usually takes about 20 minutes and is done in the office of the allergist. The allergist will put tiny drops of possible allergens (things you may be allergic to) on the skin on your arm or back. The allergist may test you for many allergens at once, so you may have rows of tiny drops on your skin. The allergist will then scratch or prick your skin underneath each drop of allergen, so the allergen can get under your skin. The allergist will watch closely to see how your skin reacts to each scratch. There may be redness and swelling in some spots. Based on your skin’s reaction, the allergist will be able to determine what you are allergic to.
If you have asthma, allergens can make your airways red, swollen, and filled with sticky mucus. Your airways can react as soon as you inhale the allergen or several hours later.
Early phase reaction:
Late phase reaction:
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life threatening allergic reaction. If someone has both asthma and anaphylaxis, when they have an allergic reaction there is a higher chance that it will be more severe and dangerous.
Anaphylaxis can involve many parts of your body including:
An anaphylactic reaction can cause a severe asthma attack and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. If you are at risk for anaphylaxis, make sure you carry your epinephrine injectors with you always.
Common causes of anaphylaxis include:
Less common causes of anaphylaxis include:
For more information on anaphylaxis, visit Food Allergy Canada.
If you have asthma and are at risk for anaphylaxis, it’s important to do the following:
The best way to treat allergy symptoms is to prevent them. Stay away from the things that cause your allergies. No treatment will work as well as avoiding the allergen in the first place. Although you cannot always avoid all your allergens (e.g. pollen), try to avoid as much as possible.
There are several allergy treatment options that can help. They can help reduce typical allergy symptoms, but are not generally shown to help with asthma symptoms.
Allergy shots don’t work for every kind of allergy and they can take a while to start making a difference. Your doctor or allergist can tell you whether they think allergy shots are right for you. They will inject you with a little bit of the allergen that you’re allergic to so that your body learns to be less sensitive to it. Allergy shots can take many years to complete.