Asthma is a common, long-term condition which effects the lungs. People with asthma have airways (or breathing tubes) that are...
Allergic asthma is asthma triggered by an allergen or allergens (it is also known as respiratory allergy). An allergen is typically a harmless substance, such as pollen, food, house dust mite, mould, or even pets and other animals. Whilst in most people these substances (allergens) pose no problem, in an allergic individual their immune system identifies them as a ‘threat’ and produces an inappropriate response. This is what is called an allergic reaction, in which asthma can be a symptom. Allergies can trigger asthma exacerbations (these are periods when asthma worsens) – in up to 90% of children and 60% of adults with asthma.
People with asthma that is triggered by allergens (allergic asthma) may be suffering additional symptoms, even though they are taking their asthma medication as prescribed. It may be that there is overuse of a rescue/ reliever inhaler on a regular basis and they may even have been to A&E or admitted to hospital. Sometimes it is only at certain times of the year, such as when pollen counts are high.
Identifying your specific allergic triggers and taking steps to reduce your exposure to them, can reduce your overall allergen load and may improve your symptoms. Many people are unaware of the link between allergy and asthma. This can often lead to a long delay in getting allergy considered in the diagnosis and an appropriate management plan.
Many people who have allergic asthma have chest and nasal symptoms that they do not connect directly to their asthma, including.
- Cough, but no temperature or illness
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing/tight chest
- Waking in the night with a cough
- Stuffy blocked nose
- Runny nose with clear fluid
- Itchy eyes
Consult your GP or asthma nurse if you are experiencing any of these symptoms which may suggest your asthma is triggered by allergens.
Is allergy triggering my asthma? On the download at the top of the page, we have provided a tick list of questions your GP or asthma nurse should ask you at your appointment.
There are two validated and recommended tests to detect allergens:
- A blood test to identify allergic antibodies specifically for the allergen (called Specific IgE).
- A skin prick test which can also detect allergens.
However, a clinical history of the individual is vitally important so that suspected allergens can be identified for testing via a blood or skin prick test to confirm diagnosis.
- Avoid or reduce exposure to your triggers. Allergy UK has factsheets on most allergic triggers as well as online tools that you can download free from our website.
- Make sure you take your medication as prescribed, even if you feel well. Do not stop your medication or make any changes without consultation with your GP.
- Follow a Personal Asthma Action Plan (PAAP). Make sure you have an annual review with your asthma nurse or GP.
- Discuss with your GP whether a referral to an allergy clinic for specialist treatment is needed.
Go to Allergy UK’s website where you will find an online allergic asthma tool. This has been designed to identify the possible connection between asthma and allergens. As well as some simple questions, you will find other online tools and information. Together, these may indicate whether or not allergens are a likely trigger for your asthma. You will be able to download the results so that you can take the information to your GP or asthma nurse for further discussion.
If a food has triggered your asthma it is important not to eat that food again, until you have seen your GP for further advice.