Sisters? Or Distant Cousins? : How are Allergies and Asthma Related?

Sisters? Or Distant Cousins? : How are Allergies and Asthma Related?

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Barbara Cybart in Introductory Topics

An asthma attack is an airway obstruction, characterized by laboured breathing, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest triggered by hyperreactivity to a stimulus. Each asthmatic has an individual set of triggers which can be classified under two broad categories:  symptom or inflammatory triggers. Symptom (non-allergic) triggers such as, smoke, exercise, and cold air, usually do not cause inflammation. Whereas inflammatory (allergic) triggers, for example, dust mites, animal dander, pollen, viral infections, certain air pollutants, moulds and cockroaches can cause inflammation of the lung’s airways or tightening of the airways’ muscles. So, allergies and asthma are related through an allergic reaction being able to trigger an asthma attack.

“Approximately 30% of the Canadian population has allergies and 7% has asthma, therefore it is likely that the two demographics overlap.”

Allergic asthma, as mentioned above, can be set off by environmental airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, moulds, and animal dander. Depending on the allergen trigger, people with allergies and asthma may have a seasonal or a year round symptom pattern. Seasonal allergies and asthma are triggered by wind pollinating plants including trees, grasses and weeds. Depending on the plant the pollination season is different. Trees can start pollinating as early as January, if winter weather beaks and continue until May. Grasses begin pollinating in April and it lasts through the summer. Finally, weeds start pollinating in the summer and continue well into autumn. The severity of allergies and asthma depends on the amount of pollen the plants produce which in turn, relies on the weather; plants produce more pollen in warmer, windier weather. The easiest way to treat allergies and asthma is to avoid the allergen. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of which months cause the worst allergies and asthma symptoms. While staying indoors would benefit allergies and asthma symptoms, it would be impossible to do so and lead a healthy lifestyle and be active outdoors. Consequently, allergies and asthma need to be controlled by a combination of allergy and asthma medication in order to be able to participate in spring and summer outdoor activities. If, the allergy and asthma medication be ineffectively controlling the symptoms of allergic asthmatics, long term treatment such as allergy desensitization injections, should be considered. Allergy injections can give long term and often permanent control of allergies and asthma symptoms, but they can only be prescribed by a doctor specialized in allergy treatment.[1]

Approximately 30% of the Canadian population has allergies and 7% has asthma, therefore it is likely that the two demographics overlap. Thus, allergies and asthma are related since allergies do trigger inflammatory asthma attacks, especially with regards to seasonal allergies and asthma, therefore they are more likely  to be step siblings than sisters or distant cousins.


[1]Allergy/Asthma Information Association. Accessed August 1,2012. http://aaia.ca/en/outdoors_with_allergic_asthma.htm