Myths You Should Stop Believing About Allergic Asthma

Asthma is a breathing disorder that involves episodes known as asthma attacks. During an attack, the airways of the lungs become inflamed, resulting in breathing difficulties. According to MedlinePlus, asthma attacks can also occur as an allergic reaction, which is known as allergic asthma.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, roughly 25 million in the United States have asthma, with around 60% of that number having allergic asthma. This form of asthma is caused by an overreactive immune system that responds to substances known as allergens, explains the Allergy & Asthma Network.

As explained by the source, people with asthma don't always have allergens. In fact, it's these allergens that set allergic asthma apart from regular asthma.

Despite the differences, the symptoms of coughing, rapid breathing, wheezing, and chest tightness are still present in allergic asthma, per Healthline. According to Healthline, untreated allergic asthma can be life-threatening. So it's important to visit your doctor if your symptoms are causing discomfort.

Myth: Allergic asthma feels the same as normal asthma

As mentioned, allergic asthma isn't the same as regular asthma. People with allergic asthma might experience other allergic disorders, such as food allergies or hay fever, per MedlinePlus. While both types of asthma display similar symptoms, some differences set them apart — rash, itchy skin, and runny nose are also common with allergic asthma, says Healthline.

According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, the immune systems of people with allergic asthma often react to even harmless and normal substances. When your body registers the entry of an allergen, your immune system is meant to act as a defense and fight it off if it's dangerous, says the Cleveland Clinic.

According to the clinic, the immune system releases a chemical called immunoglobulin whenever it thinks there's imminent danger. When this substance is released in high amounts, this can cause a person's airways to constrict, making breathing an arduous task.

Myth: Allergic asthma can't be managed

According to Healthline, allergic asthma and its associated symptoms can't always be prevented. However, you might be able to reduce the occurrence by avoiding areas with excessive dust and potential allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, and cockroaches, says WebMD.

It might also help to control indoor humidity levels. Regularly check your home's humidity by using a meter. When the humidity exceeds 40%, WebMD advises using an air conditioner or dehumidifier to slow the growth of mold and keep dust mites at bay.

Healthline also advises keeping your windows shut throughout allergy season. It may also be helpful to wash your bedding frequently at a high temperature and keep pets outdoors, if possible. As per the source, the steps you opt for will largely depend on the allergens you react to.

According to Medical News Today, investing in a vacuum cleaner, especially models with a high-efficiency particulate air filter, might also be helpful. The end goal is to reduce the dust within your home, especially when cleaning, says the source.

Myth: Allergic asthma has one specific cause

According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, allergic asthma often occurs in younger people. However, the causes are complex. Although environmental factors are a major cause, genetics might also be at play. Understanding your family history of asthma is critical to diagnosing and treating your condition.

If your family members have allergic asthma, you might also develop the condition, according to MedlinePlus. It's possible an inherited gene mutation might increase the risk of developing allergic asthma, says the source.

When concerning the environment, a myriad of things, including food, can trigger a reaction, according to Healthline. Some common environmental factors include cockroaches, rodents, pollen from trees and grasses, indoor dust mites, and mold spores.

Food culprits include milk, peanuts, soy, shellfish, gluten, and alcohol products like wine and beer. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some people are more likely to experience allergies during specific seasons — for example, when the pollen levels rise during the springtime.

Myth: Allergic asthma has a cure

According to the Cleveland Clinic, allergic asthma has no cure. However, many treatments are available to help manage symptoms. They include antihistamines, inhaled and oral corticosteroids, bronchodilators, and antibody treatment, says WebMD

According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, if you have experienced severe allergic asthma flare-ups, your doctor might recommend allergen immunotherapy. The treatment aims to reduce or eliminate your symptoms by building your tolerance to allergens. The treatment comes in the form of either tablets or allergy shots.

Some other treatments that simultaneously focus on treating both asthma and allergy, include leukotriene modifiers and anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy, explains the Mayo Clinic. According to the clinic, the leukotriene modifier is a daily pill that helps ease the symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis. It does this by controlling the chemicals released by your immune system whenever there's an allergen.

The anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy helps prevent the allergic reactions that trigger symptoms of asthma. While this treatment is good for allergic rhinitis patients, it's used mostly for treating severe allergic asthma, notes the Mayo Clinic.

Since there are so many options, and each one has different risks and benefits, it's important to consult with your doctor to decide which treatment is suitable for you.

When to see a doctor for allergic asthma symptoms

Call your doctor if your symptoms include a persistent cough, weakness, difficulty performing daily activities, or wheezing when you breathe in and out (per American Lung Association). Visit the emergency room if your skin, lips, or nails turn blue or you're taking at least 30 breaths per minute.

Call 911 if you experience hives, straining chest muscles, difficulty talking or walking, dizziness, fainting, or swelling of the tongue, mouth, or throat. These symptoms may indicate anaphylaxis, which is a potentially fatal allergic reaction, says Healthline. Also seek emergency medical care if you have trouble breathing that lasts longer than a few minutes.

To diagnose allergic asthma, your doctor might recommend several tests including spirometry, FeNO, and bronchoprovocation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, spirometry is a type of breathing test that requires you to inhale deeply and exhale into a tube. The tube collects information about the quality of air movement.

Also known as the exhaled nitric oxide test, the FeNO test, measures how much nitric oxide is in your breath as you exhale, says Healthline. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the FeNO test is often used for milder cases where a person's symptoms are not extreme.

As explained by AAFA, bronchial provocation or trigger tests are undertaken to measure how sensitive a person's lungs are to specific allergic triggers or irritants.

The American Lung Association recommends that everyone with asthma see their doctor at least once a year, because symptoms can get worse at any time.