The relationship between allergies and asthma has been hotly contested, but there’s no doubt that both have a lot in common in regards to certain triggers.
Doctor Wendy McConnell is an otolaryngologist, which is a surgeon that specialises in the neck, ear, nose and throat. In her experience, allergic asthma is actually a very common form of asthma and occurs when allergens (such as pollen) are inhaled.
“There is a unified airway theory that our upper airway (nose, sinuses and larynx) and lower airway (trachea and lungs) are connected. If you are experiencing irritation of your upper airway from allergies, then your lower airway is likely to experience the same irritation too. This is how nasal allergies can lead to further exacerbation of asthma and it’s symptoms.”
An allergic response from our body occurs when proteins in our immune system (antibodies) mistakenly identify a generally harmless substance (such as pollen) as a dangerous invader. In an attempt to protect itself, antibodies bind to the allergen and chemicals are released by our immune systems.
This is usually what causes the traditional signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as nasal congestion, a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes and skin reactions. For some people, it’s this very same reaction that also affects the lungs and airways and leads to asthma like symptoms.
Do Allergies Cause Asthma?
Over two million Australians have asthma, or around one in ten people. Of these, about 80% also have allergies such as hay fever.
As outlined above, allergies can cause some asthma – but not all. For some people, asthma can be triggered by some forms of exercise, infections, medications, cold air, reflux or even stress. Many asthmatics suffer from a broad range of triggers, and their condition isn’t caused by one specific factor. A family history with specific allergens or asthma may also be a contributing element that needs consideration too.
To help narrow down triggers for both allergens and asthma, your doctor may perform a number of tests which can include blood work or skin pricks. If triggers are able to be pinpointed, in turn it can also help to get the symptoms of asthma under control too.
When To Speak To A Doctor
If you begin to notice that certain seasons or even animals set you off coughing or wheezing, it might be time to consider making an appointment with a doctor to get to the bottom of it.
13 Doctor is an online telehealth provider and offers access to medical professionals from the comfort of your own home. They can also provide pharmaceutical scripts or further referrals if required and are open seven days a week.