Allergic Asthma Causes, Symptoms, and Testing


What is allergic asthma?  

Allergic asthma, or allergy-induced asthma, is a type of asthma that is triggered or made worse by allergies. Exposure to allergens (e.g., pollen, dander, mold, etc.) or irritants to which patients are sensitized may increase asthma symptoms and precipitate asthma exacerbations in patients who have asthma.1 Asthma and allergies often go hand in hand. In fact, up to 90 percent of children and 60 percent of adults with asthma suffer from allergies.2,3  

Asthma, the chronic and complex inflammatory disorder that narrows the airways, is a serious public health problem that affects both children and adults. Approximately 250,000 people worldwide die each year from asthma, and almost all of these deaths are avoidable.

Asthma and Allergic Triggers: How to Improve Asthma

It’s vital to identify underlying allergic triggers. Get answers with a blood test.

Common Allergic Asthma Causes and Triggers

 

Many of the same substances that can cause an allergic reaction may also affect people with asthma. Common allergens that may trigger allergic asthma include:

 

Animal Dander
Dust Mites
Insects
Pollen
Mold

Are you a healthcare provider looking for a comprehensive list of allergic asthma allergens and associated symptoms? 

Explore our fact sheets, an easily sharable, patient-friendly resource that includes cross reactivities, component names, and management plans.

Allergic Asthma Symptoms

Asthma usually presents as one or more of the following symptoms:4

  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness 

Symptoms may occur in connection with allergen exposure, exercise, cold air, dry air, and airway infections. Other irritants, such as strong scents or cigarette smoke, may also trigger an exacerbation. To manage allergic asthma, it is important to identify and minimize exposure to allergic triggers.

An asthma attack may be triggered by exposure to an allergen. During an asthma attack, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes constrict, narrowing the air passages and making it extremely difficult to breathe.5 Fortunately, almost everyone who receives treatment recovers from even the most severe asthma attacks.6

It’s important to uncover the allergens that may exacerbate asthma to properly manage and decrease the risk of asthma attacks. Seek emergency care if experiencing one of the following symptoms:

·   Difficulty breathing
·   Severe chest pain
·   Difficulty walking or talking
·   Blue tint to the skin

It has been shown that reducing exposure to confirmed allergy triggers can have a significant impact on the ability to control asthma with fewer symptoms, fewer hospital visits, and improved quality of life.7-9

Frequently Asked Questions About Allergies and Asthma

Most patients with asthma have multiple allergic sensitizations contributing to their allergen load.10,11 These allergen sensitizations can add to the patient’s trigger load, eventually resulting in asthma exacerbations—even from other, non-allergic, triggers.10,12 For those with asthma and aeroallergy (i.e., an allergy to airborne substances, such as pollen or mold spores), in addition to pharmaceutical strategies, reducing exposure to sensitized allergens can alleviate or reduce symptoms.13-17

The allergen symptom threshold is the point at which the cumulative allergen load leads to symptoms.18,19 Read more about the symptom threshold.

Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status can be affected by asthma.

There is no cure for asthma, so your best defense is to learn if you have underlying triggers and then limit your exposure to them. Start the conversation by going over a list of your symptoms. Knowing the types of symptoms experienced and when they occur can help a healthcare provider determine if you may be a candidate for allergy testing

Yes. Reducing exposure to one or more allergic triggers may help reduce symptoms. This can only be accomplished by working with a healthcare professional to understand your unique allergy profile. Start the conversation by filling out our symptom tracker.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to outgrow asthma or for it to go away. Asthma is a chronic disease that permanently changes your lungs’ airways.It is possible for symptoms and attacks to lessen or get better over time. However, there may always be a risk for those symptoms to return.

Allergic Asthma Testing and Management  

With allergic asthma, medical history is often not enough to make an accurate allergy diagnosis. For example, a patient can present with a history indicative of house dust mite or cat allergy but actually not be sensitized.20 Identifying and reducing exposure to allergens to which patients are sensitized can reduce the risk of induced asthma exacerbations, particularly in the case of house dust mite sensitization.1 

It is also important to identify and treat other allergic conditions. For example, both allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis are risk factors for the development of asthma.21 More than 80 percent of people with asthma also suffer from rhinitis, suggesting the concept of “one airway, one disease.”4 The presence of allergic rhinitis commonly exacerbates asthma, increasing the risk of asthma attacks, emergency visits, and hospitalizations for asthma.22-26

A blood test—together with an allergy-focused medical history—may help identify underlying allergen triggers.  

Four Questions to Ask a Healthcare Provider About Asthma

It’s vital to identify underlying allergic triggers. 

Up to 90 percent of patients are sensitized to more than one allergen.11 The effect is cumulative: A patient may have a number of triggers, which combined may lead to symptoms.7,12

Practice Parameters and Guidelines for Allergic Asthma

Guidelines recommend factors that trigger or exacerbate asthma be identified routinely and documented in the medical records and personal asthma action plans of all patients with asthma.27 Reducing exposure to one or more allergic triggers can help reduce symptoms and the need for medication.28

Practice parameters have been developed to classify and manage treatment of asthma, and guideline-directed management has been shown to improve disease control.29

 

Explore practice parameters and guidelines.

Tools for Understanding Allergies

 

Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.

  1. Murray CS, Foden P, Sumner H, et al. Preventing Severe Asthma Exacerbations in Children. A Randomized Trial of Mite-Impermeable Bedcovers. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017;196(2):150-158.
  2. Allen-Ramney F, Schoenwetter W, Weiss T, et al. Sensitization to Common Allergens in Adults with Asthma. JABFP. 2005;(18)5 434-439. 
  3. Host A, Halken S. Practical aspects of allergy-testing. Paediatr Respir Rev. 2003; (4) 312-318.
  4. Pawankar R, Holgate S, Canonica G, at el. World Allergy Organization. White Book on Allergy (WAO). 2011. http://www.worldallergy.org/UserFiles/file/WAO-White-Book-on-Allergy_web.pdf. Accessed December 2017. 
  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “Asthma Attack,” https://acaai.org/asthma/symptoms/asthma-attack, accessed April 2020. 
  6. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “Outgrowing asthma?” https://acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/outgrowing-asthma, accessed April 2020. 
  7. Eggleston PA. Control of environmental allergens as a therapeutic approach. lmmunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2003;23(3):533-547.
  8. Morgan WJ, Gruchalla R, Kattan M, et al. Results of Home-Based Environmental Intervention among Urban Children with Asthma. N Engl J Med. 2004;351:1068-80. 
  9. Halken S, Hansen L, OSterballe O. Effect of mattress and pillow encasings on children with asthma and house dust mite allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003;111:169-76.    
  10. Eggleston PA. Control of environmental allergens as a therapeutic approach. lmmunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2003;23(3):533-547.  
  11. Giorgio Ciprandi, Cristoforo Incorvaia & Franco FratiThe Italian Study Group on Polysensitization (2015) Management of polysensitized patient: from molecular diagnostics to biomolecular immunotherapy, Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, 11:9, 973-976, DOI: 10.1586/1744666X.2015.1062365.
  12. Wickman M. When allergies complicate allergies. Allergy. 2005;60 (suppl 79):14-18. 
  13. Allen-Ramey F, et al. J Am Board Fam Pract.  2005;18(5):434-439.
  14. Host A, Halken S. Allergy. 2000;55:600-608. 
  15. Morgan WJ, et al. N Engl J Med. 2004;351:1068-80.
  16. Zethraeus N, et al. Italian Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;36:61. 
  17. Janson, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009;123:840-6.
  18. Duran-Tauleria E, Vignati G, Guedan MJ, et al. The utility of specific immunoglobulin E measurements in primary care. Allergy. 2004;59 (Suppl 78):35-41. 
  19. Niggemann B, Nilsson M, Friedrichs F. Paediatric allergy diagnosis in primary care is improved by invitro allergen specific IgE testing. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2008;19:325-331.
  20. Smith HE, Hogger C, Lallemant C, et al. Is structured allergy history sufficient when assessing patients with asthma and rhinitis in general practice? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009;123:646-650. 
  21. Scadding GK, Durham SR, Mirakian R, et al. BSACI guidelines for the management of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38:19-42. 

  22. Bousquet J, Van Cauwenberge P, Khaltaev N, et al. Allergic rhinitis and its impact on asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001;108(suppl 5):S147-S334. 
  23. Thomas M, Kocevar VS, Zhang Q, et al. Asthma-Related Health Care Resource Use Among Asthmatic Children With and Without Concomitant Allergic Rhinitis. Pediatrics. 2005;15:129-134.
  24. Price D, Zhang Q, Kocevar VS, et al. Effect of a concomitant diagnosis of allergic rhinitis on asthma-related health care use by adults. Clin Exp Allergy. 2005;35:282-287.  
  25. Crystal-Peters J, Neslusan C, Crown WH, et al. Treating allergic rhinitis in patients with comorbid asthma: the risk of asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002;109(1):57-62.
  26. Valovirta E. Managing Co-Morbid Asthma With Allergic Rhinitis: Targeting the One-Airway With Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists. World Allergy Organ J. 2012;5:S210-S211. 
  27. National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD). Why Asthma Still Kills: Confidential Enquiry Report. London: RCP; 2014.
  28. NIH Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, 2007. 
  29. Shiffman RN et al. Bridging the Guideline Implementation Gap: A Systematic, Document-Centered Approach to Guideline Implementation. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2004;11:418–426.