Allergic Asthma, Symptoms, Treatment, Allergy Triggers And Much More
Miscellaneous plant pollens. Very common allergens
Cherry Blossom, not always the cause of Spring Allergies
What is Allergic Asthma
Such a dazzling array of resplendent beauty the Spring and Summer blossoms brings. Unfortunately, the flowers, flowering trees, grasses and shrubs that adorns our gardens and surrounding landscapes, can also herald the time of dreaded misery for millions of people with allergic asthma and hay fever.
The word Asthma, comes from the Greek word for "panting."
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the small airways of the lungs. It is the most common chronic disease among children. The disease is characterized by recurrent attacks of narrowing of the airways and obstruction of airflow leading to coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. Symptoms of the condition can vary in severity and frequency from person to person.
Asthma is divided into two general categories, depending on the type of stimuli that triggers the attack.
Intrinsic asthma (non-allergic), generally develop later in life, very little is known about its causes. The prognosis for this type of asthma is worse than for extrinsic asthma, it is more common in women and smokers and tends to be less responsive to treatment.
Extrinsic asthma (allergic) more commonly seen in children and young adults. Most cases of extrinsic asthma are allergy associated, caused by immunoglobulin E (IgE, one of five sub-classes of antibodies). Antibodies are protein produced by the immune system which attacks allergen such as inhaled pollen or chemicals.
In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma. 1 in 12 or 4.3 million adults and 1 in 11 or 1.1 million children. There are currently two children with asthma in every classroom in the UK. Approximately one death from asthma occurs every seven hours.
Effects Of Air Pollution
Research has shown that pollution from cars, factories and power plants are a major cause of asthma attacks. More than 40% of the US population lives in areas with high levels of pollution. Approximately 30% of childhood asthma is due to environmental exposures that is costing the nation $2 billion per year. Research study from Los Angeles, found that 8% of childhood asthma cases, results from living close to major motorways, a distance of around 250 feet.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, around 7 million people died in 2012, as a result of exposure to pollution, this equates to 1 in 8 of total global deaths. This estimate confirms that pollution is now the world's largest single environmental health risk.
Asthma cannot be cured but it can be well controlled and managed with proper diagnosis, treatment and education. Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma. Approximately 90% of children with childhood asthma have allergies, in comparison; only 50% of adults with asthma have allergies.
Allergic asthma is most prominent in the western world but occurs in all countries. WHO predicts that death from asthma will increase in the next ten years if urgent action is not taken. The organisation estimates, that 235 million people are currently suffering from asthma globally.
Asthma is said to be a disease of affluent society. The disease shows widespread difference in prevalence, even in Europe. The reason for this is not yet known, but scientists believe that the difference, almost certainly reflect variations of genetic and environmental factors in different regions.
Study suggests, that rural lifestyle is consistently associated with low prevalence of asthma. The farmer's lifestyle of exposure to farm animals and drinking of unpasteurised milk, is said to be protective in farmers children. The conclusion is that environment rich in microbial organism is beneficial in building infants resistance to asthma (the hygiene hypothesis).
The hygiene hypothesis is a theory proposed in the 1980s. It suggests that a young child's environment can be “too clean” to be effective in stimulating, or challenging the child's immune system to respond to various threats, while the immune system is still maturing.
According to this hypothesis, the lack of challenge to the immune system, results in many people developing immune related health problems like asthma. However; some experts say, there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that reducing modern practice of hygiene would have any impact on conditions such as asthma. But in a 2012 study, conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital, evidence was found to supports not only the hygiene hypothesis, but also the potential mechanism that can allow this to happen. The theory continues to be controversial.
Asthma is not just a problem for high income countries, the condition can be found in all countries, regardless of the level of development. More than 80% of deaths due to asthma occurs in low and lower- middle income countries. This is mainly due to the fact that the condition is not always properly diagnosed and treated.
Los Angeles Smog, A View looking down from the Hollywood hills into downtown Los Angeles
Smog A Health Problem In Hong Kong.
The house dust mite, a common allergens
What is an allergy
One of the functions of the immune system is to protect the body from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. However; the immune system can become somewhat overzealous and too vigilant. It begins to treat harmless substances as if they were the invading enemy, attacking them in the nose, lungs, eyes and beneath the skin.
An episode of asthma can be triggered by the inhalation of substances known as allergens.
When the body encounter an allergen, the alarm is sounded and special cells known as lgE antibodies are stimulated. These defensive cells trigger the body's allergic reaction, causing the release of chemicals known as histamine, resulting in swelling and inflammation and typical allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing as the body attempts to fight off and destroy the invading allergens.
Asthma Symptoms and Genetics
During an allergic asthma attack, the airways becomes hypersensitive to allergens to which an individual has become sensitized. When these allergens enters the airways, the body's mass cells or basophils releases substances that causes bronchospasm. The bronchial muscles around the airways goes into a state of sudden tightening and constriction, resulting in narrowing of the airways. The mucus membrane becomes swollen and inflamed, the bronchial glands produces an excess of thick sticky mucus which is difficult to cough up and expel, forming plugs which can further reduce the diameter of the airways causing further obstruction to air flow.
Symptoms of asthma
The symptoms of asthma can be worsened by exercising in cold air and after the inhalation of certain allergens. In almost every asthma suffer, regardless of whether the condition is allergic or non-allergic, the strongest risk factors for developing asthma is a family history of the condition and exposure to indoor allergens.
Asthma triggers includes:
House dust and mites in the bedding and carpets and stuffed furniture
- Pet dander, animal fur or feathers, this can be confusing, since research shows that early exposure to cats and dogs can have a protective effect
Outdoor allergens like plant pollens and mould spores,
Chemical irritants, as often used in the work place
- Airway and chest infections
- Flu viruses
- Extreme emotions like anger, laughter and fear
- Food allergies, some people may have allergies to bee stings, eating shellfish, nuts, or other foods that can cause an anaphylactic shock reaction triggering a life threatening asthma attack
- Foods containing sulphites (naturally occurring substance found in some foods, also used as food preservative). Approx. 5% to 11% of people with asthma maybe sensitive to sulphites.
Medication like aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and beta-blockers.
Allergens are all around us, therefore people with allergic asthma must understand their allergy and asthma triggers to prevent asthma symptoms.
The symptoms of asthma remains more or less the same whether or not an individual have nonallergic or allergic asthma. It may occur several times in a day or week, for some people, it may worsen with physical activities or at night. Failing to recognize and avoid triggers can result in an attack which can cause respiratory distress hospitalization and even death. Symptoms to look out for include some or all of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Tightening of the chest
- Production of lots of thick mucus
Genetics and Asthma
The cause of asthma is not fully understood, but research suggests, that the condition runs strongly in families. About 50% due to genetic susceptibility and 50% due to environmental factors. If one identical twin is affected, the probability of the other also having the condition is about 25%.
Increased incidence of asthma has been associated with urbanization, however, the exact relation between the two is unclear.
Medication for Asthma
Treatment for allergic asthma include:
- Antihistamines, chlorpheniramine (piriton) are first generation antihistamines, the drug does what the name suggests, it work by blocking the action of the histamines on the body's cells by targeting special molecules known as receptors. Antihistamines help to relieve itching, stuffy nose and sneezing. Over the counter options include Benadryl and Tavist. These drugs can cause drowsiness, therefore, people taking them should avoid using heavy machinery and driving vehicles while taking them. There are new second generation non-sedating antihistamines available, such as, cetirizine, laratadine and fexofenadine. These drugs do not cross the blood brain barrier, therefore do not cause drowsiness.
- Methylxanthine drug like Theophylline relaxes the smooth muscle of the airways to relieve asthma symptoms. This drug interacts with many other drugs should be closely monitored,
- B2-adrenergic Receptor Agonist such as Solbutamol (Ventolin) help to relieve bronchospasm in condition such as asthma and other chronic respiratory disease. The drug maybe prescribed as asthma inhaler, tablets and in severe cases intravenously, usually in a hospital.
- Leukotriene Antagonists work by blocking the action of chemicals known as leukotrienes, They include, Montelukast and Zileuton
- Bronchodilators are drugs that helps to relieve chest tightness, they are usually prescribed when the narrowing of the airways is accompanied by coughing. Bronchodilators can reduce coughing, wheezing and difficult breathing and can be taken orally, by injection or inhaler. They include drugs like Ipratropium bromide (atrovent) an antimuscarinic bronchodilator.
- Nasal decongestants, not usually recommended for children, this type of medicine can provide short-term relief for nasal congestion and is available as tablets or nasal spray.
- Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, contains small amounts of the substances that triggers the allergic reaction. allergy shots are especially recommended for individuals who are unable to tolerate allergy medication, for those people who have severe allergy symptoms and those who develop asthma during the pollen season.
- Corticosteriods works by preventing the production of chemical messengers (cytokines) responsible for the immediate inflammatory response after exposure to an allergen. Long term use can result in unwanted side effects. According to WHO, through treatment such as the use of inhaled corticosteroids to relieve bronchial inflammation, the number of asthma related deaths can be reduced.
- Alternative medicine is an option some people will want to explore for relieving allergy symptoms. See chart.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Approved New Drug
The first pill to replace some allergy shots has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the immunotherapy drug, Oralair, produced by the French company Stallergenes only work against certain types of grass pollen and like allergy shots, the new drug takes about 4 months to start working, so it will not be in time to benefit the grass allergy suffers for this summer. The pill works against five types of grass pollen that are common in the US, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard, perennial rye, sweet vernal and Timothy.
The drug will be placed under the tongue, with a doctor's supervision for the first dose. This is to allow close observation for symptoms of possible severe allergic reactions. After the first dose of the drug has been safely administered, it can be taken at home, once daily.
According to the FDA, the medication reduced symptoms and the need for allergy medication by 16 to 30 per cent in studies. The pill is approved for people from age 10 to 65 and will be available in May, 2014.
What Triggers Your Hay Fever or Asthma Attack
If you suffer from Asthma or Hay Fever, when do you experience the worst symptoms?
Tips on the management of allergies
- Know what triggers your allergy
- Avoid triggers
- Avoid dusty dank places such as attics and basements
- Pollen is higher in the morning, do outdoor activities later in the day
- Keep windows and doors closed at home or in the car
- Wipe face and eyes when coming in from outside
- Pull back long hair or wear a hat to lessen the amount of pollen that collect in the hair
- Wash hair, shower and change into clean clothes on returning home
- Wash bedding, especially pillowcases every few days
- Use saline nose sprays to flush out the pollen, blow nose before using prescribed nasal spray to clean the sinuses and remove irritants
- Change air conditioning filters in the home frequently, use those made specifically for pollen and allergens
Alternative or Natural Remedy to Relieve Allergy Symptoms
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
This European herb is one of the most popular herb, one tablet four times per day, proved to be as effective as antihistamine in controlling symptoms of grass allergy.
Study by Swiss Researchers published by The British Medical Journal.
Fresh nettle tea or Freeze-dried nettles (Urtica dioica)
may be able to reduce the amount of histamine released by the body in response to an allergen
National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
Hydrastis Candiensis, tonic made from goldenseal herb
Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties
Recommended by doctors in addition to nasal spray. But there is insufficient research available to support the various health benefits.
Relaxes smooth muscles of the upper respiratory tract
Division of General Practice, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre. Oral magnesium and vitamin C supplement in asthma: a parallel randomized placebo-controlled trial
Omega 3 fatty acid
Helps to relieve inflammation. Work like the asthma drug, leukotriene inhibitors. Australia's Research concluded that dietary fatty acid may have beneficial effect on the prevalence of wheezing during the first 18 months of life
Clinical Epidemiology Unit The Children's Hospital Westmead University of Sidney, Australia.
Evening primrose oil
Rich in essential fatty acid known as GLA which is converted by the body to prevent inflammation
Need more research
Tumeric (Curcuma longa)
Contains compounds that inhibits the release of COX-2 prostaglandins hormone-like substances involve in the inflammatory process
Need More Research
Vitamins A, C and E
Vit C can improve short term airway responsiveness, especially effective for exercise induced asthma
Studies in The Turkish journal of pediatrics showed that levels of these three antioxidant vitamins were lower in asthmatic children than in normal healthy children
Research shows, Vit. D has the potential to significantly cut the symptoms of asthma
Kings College London
Middle Eastern Herbal Blend of Black cumin, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary,sage,spearmint and thyme
Relaxes the tracheal muscles
need more researh
Locally made honey is good for the immune system.
10 Air and Water pollution Campaign Slogans
- Air pollution cause asthma in your kids
- Be aware or else greenery will become rare
- Do something drastic to make the planet fantastic
- Do your share for a cleaner air
- Green revolution is the best solution to remove pollution
- If you litter, the future will be bitter
- Modern technology owes ecology an apology
- Nature is for everyone's need and not everyone's greed
- Your mother doesn't want to pick up after you, and neither do your children
- Polluting aint cool so don't be a fool
List of trees that often trigger allergies
- Box elder
- Mountain elder