About 25 million Americans have asthma, and allergic asthma – which is triggered by allergens – is the most common type, per healthline.com. It is estimated that 50 percent of all adult asthmatics have the allergy-induced type, while 90 percent of child sufferers are linked to allergic asthma. One thing all asthmatics have in common: regardless the source, they are dealing with symptoms that include shortness of breath and wheezing, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, in addition to the usual allergy signs such as watery, itchy eyes and lots of sneezing. Those plagued by allergic asthma are affected by allergens that elicit an allergic reaction in which our immune system reads as an invasion by harmful compounds, even if they aren't actually harmful. No matter, once so activated, our immune system will release a substance known as immunoglobulin E, otherwise known by its abbreviated name of IgE. An excessive amount of IgE can produce inflammation, or swelling of the airways, obstructing our ability to breathe and subsequently leading to an asthma attack, per aafa.org. So, does such a restricted-breathing episode, otherwise unexplained, mean an asthma attack? Not necessarily, but when such an occurrence takes place, a visit to your personal physician is in order.
Common Triggers (Allergens)Allergens to a large degree can be avoided, which is why it's helpful to know what those allergens are. Such knowledge offers clues to what lifestyle changes must be made if you have allergic asthma and want to reduce the risk of an attack. Here are some common allergens:
- Pets. No, not just the presence of the pets. We're talking about pet products such as urine, feces, saliva, hair and dander (skin flakes). These are all potential allergens. Per aafa.org, you don't even need to own a pet to be susceptible to their, uh, deposits. Other people's pets can leave behind their own stuff in a place that you just happened to visit while passing through, unwittingly.
- Dust mites. They can't be seen with the naked eye because of their tiny size, but these spider-like beings feed on human skin flakes. They make their home in mattresses, carpets, pillows, clothes, stuffed toys . . . you name it.
- Cockroaches. They're everywhere, not just in your home (even if you haven't seen one in a long while, they're lurking, somewhere). Even their body parts – in addition to their faces and saliva – are believed to be allergens.
- Pollen. No surprise here. Pollen comes from weeds, grasses, and trees, and it can get blown around by the wind easily. Even in the off-season, these airborne particles can hang around inside your house and air ducts 12 months out of the year.
- Smoke. Not just smoke from tobacco – think cigarettes, cigars, and pipes – either. Smoke wafting out of the fireplace or from candles, incense or fireworks can be an allergen as well.
- Air pollution. There's still plenty of that hanging around, even with all the federal regulations.
- Mold. The presence of moisture can provide a breeding ground for mold. Molds manufacture tiny spores, like seeds, to reproduce, and these spores become airborne very easily.
Getting Tested for AllergiesIf you are showing symptoms and reckon you might have allergic asthma, go see your doctor. He or she might test you, or send you to an allergist who's better equipped to diagnose whatever allergy-related problem you might have and do something about it. The two most common types of tests are the one where your skin is pricked with a tiny amount of an allergen and then checked after a period of time to see if red bumps are arising at the spot of the prick. Red bumps mean you are allergic to that allergen. There is also a test known as a specific IgE (or sIgE) test that involves testing your blood.
Avoiding AllergensIf you are diagnosed with allergic asthma, there are prescription medications and OTC supplements that can help you deal with the symptoms. In terms of what you can do yourself, the trick is to avoid breathing in the allergens. How so, you ask? Here are six suggestions:
- Remain indoors when pollen counts are high. Watch the weather reports. When pollen counts are high, keep the windows closed and check your air filters in the house to make sure they are clean (and therefore effective).
- Avoid dust mites. OK, how do you do that when you can't even see them? Start by wrapping your pillows, mattress and box spring in allergen-proof covers. Washing your sheets and other bedding weekly in hot water helps, too. There are several other things to do as wall, less practical, but doing the above should help immensely.
- Control your indoor humidity. You can buy an inexpensive meter to check this. If the moisture reading is above 40 percent, per webmd.com, use a dehumidifier or crank back on the AC. This will help dry out the air in your home and inhibit the growth of molds, cockroaches, and dust mites.
- Check for pet allergies. Pets can be tested for this, most likely at your vet's. Giving away an allergy-inducing pet may be out of the question – even if it's what the doctor ordered – but at least keep it or them out of your bedroom. That will help some.
- Keep kitchen and bathroom(s) clean and dry. This is to control mold and cockroaches.
- Protect yourself while working outside, such as when gardening or raking. An HEPA filter mask can help prevent pollen and mold particles from getting into your lungs.