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Allergic asthma: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, allergic asthma is the most common asthma type.

Allergies can be dangerous if they cause a life-threatening response known as anaphylaxis.

In allergic asthma, as well as nonallergic asthma, an asthma attack, or exacerbation, can also be fatal occasionally. As a result, a person may wish to talk to their doctor about identifying asthma triggers to reduce the likelihood of an attack.


Asthma symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • chest tightness
  • coughing
  • problems breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing

People will usually notice these symptoms become worse when they have exposure to certain triggers, which can include allergens.

A serious asthma attack can cause severe airway swelling that makes it difficult to breathe at all. A person may then require emergency medical treatment to help them breathe.

Avoidance of triggers is the first and most important way to prevent allergic asthma symptoms.

If a person is allergic to pet dander, they should avoid the pets known to cause allergic reactions.

For people allergic to dust mites, there are other steps they can take at home to reduce their risk of exposure to these mites.

Examples include:

  • Placing allergen-proof bed coverings over pillows and mattresses: These help to keep dust mites that might trigger an allergic reaction away from bedding.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter: This reduces the amount of dust present when cleaning.
  • Washing bedding regularly: People should do this using a high water temperature to remove dust mites as well as other potential allergy-causing substances.
  • Keeping dust to a minimum: People can do this in the home by washing clothes and toys regularly, especially stuffed toys, as well as dusting with damp rags to minimize dust in the air.

Keeping the home clean and mold-free can often help reduce the potential triggers for allergic asthma.

Medical treatments

There is no cure for asthma. However, there are medical treatments that can prevent allergic reactions as well as treat asthma symptoms.

Doctors may also prescribe treatments to reduce airway irritation if a person experiences an asthma attack, and to prevent asthma symptoms and airway inflammation over the long term.

Examples of these treatments include:

  • Short-acting inhalers: These medications quickly open up the airways, helping a person breathe more easily. Doctors often call them rescue inhalers because a person can use them quickly when they are having a hard time breathing.
  • Long-acting inhalers: People use these medications to keep the airways open for a longer period than short-acting inhalers.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids: This medication helps to reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Leukotriene modifiers: These drugs reduce the amount of airway swelling in some of those with asthma. They can also relax the airways, ideally making it easier to breathe.

In addition to medications to treat breathing symptoms, a doctor may recommend taking medications to reduce the body’s response to allergen exposure. These drugs are more helpful for people with other allergy symptoms in addition to asthma.

Many medications are available over the counter. Examples include:

  • cetirizine, brand name Zyrtec
  • fexofenadine, brand name Allegra
  • loratadine, brand name Claritin
  • levocetirizine, brand name Xyzal

These medications help to block the body’s response to allergens. While they will not cure allergic asthma, they may help reduce the severity of an allergic response.

A doctor may recommend allergy immunotherapy to help someone who has allergic asthma. This is a process that exposes the body to small and increasing amounts of an allergen. Exposure in this way can desensitize a person to the allergen, reducing the chances of their immune system triggering an asthma attack or other symptoms.

Doctors give immunotherapy treatments via shots or tablets that dissolve under the tongue.


Allergic asthma can affect a person’s abilities to go outdoors or go to other people’s homes with pets.

While curing allergic asthma is not possible, many treatments can enhance breathing and improve a person’s overall health.

Avoiding the substances that trigger asthma reactions can help, as can taking medications to reduce the severity of an allergic reaction.

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