90% of the children who have asthma are also known to suffer from allergies. While there is no cure for asthma, it can certainly be prevented. Some promising research has shown that stem cells could be the future of asthma cure.
Since 1984, May has been celebrated as the ‘Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month’. This month focuses on raising awareness about asthma and allergy among doctors, patients, nurses, parents, caregivers, and the general population. If your child suffers from allergies and asthma then this article is for you.
There is a strong connection between allergens and asthma. Allergies and asthma often occur together. It has been observed that 90% of the children who suffer from asthma have allergies. Many parents tend to overlook the connection between allergies and asthma but it is advisable that if your child suffers from either of the condition then you should gather as much knowledge about both conditions as possible. Mention worthy, allergy and asthma are the most common chronic conditions, affecting 1 in 13 people.
What Is An Allergy?
Allergy is an overactive immune system. In our natural condition, our immune system is supposed to build a barrier against germs, bacteria and viruses. The immune system is supposed to react to these adversely. However, when the immune system starts reacting to other things that are not harmful to our body, it is considered an allergy. The immune system may attack harmless objects such as dust, pollens, cat dander, dust mites, various food items, medicine, etc. Anything that causes the immune system to overreact is known as an ‘allergen’.
When your body encounters an allergen, it produces a chemical—IgE antibodies. This antibody then releases another chemical called histamine which causes swelling and inflammation as a defense against the allergen. This leads to common symptoms of allergy such as runny nose, itching, and sneezing. While some allergies go away with age, some can get triggered in adulthood.
The Most Common Symptoms of Allergy
The symptoms of allergy and asthma may seem to overlap. However, some unique symptoms should give you an idea of whether it is an allergic reaction or an asthma attack. The most common symptoms of allergic reactions are:
- Red eyes that are itchy and watery
- Continuous sneezing, a person can even sneeze 50-60 times
- Runny and blocked nose
- Strep throat
- Rashes and itchiness on various parts of the body
- Swollen face
Allergens can be an object, a food item, medicine, insects, dust particles or even particular weather. Here is a list of common allergens:
- Dust Mites
- Animal Dander
- Tiny Flakes of Animal Hair or Skin
- Household Disinfectants
Various diseases are related to these allergens. The most common is a celiac disease related to gluten allergy, hay fever related to pollens, eczema, and anaphylaxis.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory disorder that can make breathing difficult. The lungs and associated pulmonary functions get compromised due to asthma. An asthma attack can get triggered by stress, medication, smoke, infections, air temperature, and weather. Asthma narrows the pathways in the lungs making it extremely difficult to breathe. Some people experience strong asthma flare-ups. Asthma is not curable but it can be managed with medicine and lifestyle changes. Patients may need to use an inhaler regularly to keep their symptoms under check. Asthma can go away on its own with age.
Common Symptoms of Asthma
Unlike allergic reactions, there are certain symptoms unique to asthma such as chest tightness and shortness of breath. The other symptoms are:
- Rapid breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Blue or pale lips
What is the Connection Between Allergies and Asthma?
Children who suffer from allergies are more likely to get asthma. However, many suffer from only allergies and not asthma. Allergies can worsen the symptoms of asthma. 60% of people suffer from allergy-induced asthma. Genetic also plays a crucial role in developing allergies. If parents have allergies then it is most likely that the kids will also develop allergies. Children who get hay fever are more prone to develop asthma in the future.
When asthma is induced by an allergic reaction it is known as allergic asthma. Children who have difficulty breathing during the allergic season such as spring are likely to have allergic asthma. The moment they inhale an allergen they start getting asthma symptoms. The good news is that allergic asthma is treatable. If you can keep your child away from the allergens you can keep asthma at bay.
How to Diagnose Allergic Asthma
The most common way to diagnose asthma is by conducting a respiratory function test.
- They may perform a spirometry test to check the amount of air inhaled and exhaled. This would give an idea about the narrowing of the air passage.
- They can perform a lung function test by using a medicine called a bronchodilator.
- The doctor will also perform a skin prick test to check allergies. It checks if the skin develops any rashes. This test can determine almost 50 allergens that your child is susceptible to. For children, the test is conducted on their upper back.
Tips to Prevent Allergic Asthma Attacks
The best treatment option for allergic asthma is prevention. If you can keep your child away from the allergens then you can manage the asthma attacks. If you know the allergens then avoid them. In case of unknown allergens, follow the general precaution.
- Avoid pollens
- Avoid dust mites by changing your bedding regularly
- Control indoor humidity, keep it below 40%
- Avoid pets
- Do pest control regularly
- Vacuum clean your home regularly
- Avoid food allergens like nuts, shrimps, etc
Allergic asthma is not always preventable. There is no cure for asthma but a recent study conducted by scientists at Monash University has shown that stem cell therapy can cure chronic asthma. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) proved effective in reversing the effect of asthma on the lungs. The scientists claim that this therapy can be used for asthma and cystic fibrosis patients. For more details please consult with your doctor first.