Allergies and Asthma
What is an allergy?
Approximately 15-40 % of population worldwide develops some kinds of allergy. Symptoms of allergic disease are the result of events occurring within your immune system-the body’s defense mechanism against harmful substances. The body of an individual with allergic disease identifies some substances called allergens, as harmful. These substances, which are harmless to most people, trigger allergic reactions within that person’s immune system.
Who develops asthma or allergies?
Asthma and allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic factors. The rising in the prevalence of asthma and allergies worldwide may probably reflect both increased exposures and enhanced responses to allergens. Indoor allergens include house dust mite droppings, animal dander, cockroach droppings and indoor molds, whereas airborned pollens and mold spores are outdoor allergen. While it's true that asthma and allergies are more common in children, they can occur for the first time at any age or, in some cases, recur after many years of remission. Heredity plays a key role in who will develop asthma and allergy. If one parent has allergic disease, the estimated risk of the child to develop allergies is 48%, and the child's risk grows to 70% if both parents have allergies.
Types of Allergies
Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever). Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to describe the allergic reactions that take place when an airborne allergen, such as pollen or mold, is inhaled through the mouth or nose. Symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, excess mucus, weepy eyes and a scratchy or burning palate and throat.
Asthma. Asthma is caused when muscle spasms constrict the flow of air to the lungs. The linings of airways become inflamed and swollen, and excess mucus may clog the airways. An asthma attack is characterized by labored or restricted breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and wheezing. The condition can develop quickly and may vary in severity from mild discomfort to life-threatening attacks in which breathing stops altogether. Sometimes a chronic cough is the only symptom, and many cases of the disease go undiagnosed.
Sinusitis and Otitis media. Common allergic diseases often triggered by allergic rhinitis. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses, which are hollow cavities within the cheek bones found around the eyes and behind the nose. Otitis media-or middle ear infections- is among the most common childhood disease requiring physician care.
Atopic dermatitis/Eczema. Symptoms include itching, reddening, and flaking or peeling of the skin. Approximately 50% of patients develp symptoms in the first year of life. This skin condition often precedes other allergic disorders and may be associated with food allergy.
Urticaria(Hives)/Angioedema. Hives are itchy, red bumps that appear on the surface of the skin. They can occur in clumps and range in size, and can be either chronic or acute. Triggers of acute hives may include infection or ingestion of some foods or medications. Often appearing with hives, angioedema in a non-itchy swelling in the deeper layers of the skin.
Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe, systemic allergic reaction generally caused by substances that are injected or ingested, including some foods and medications, insect sting and latex. Symptoms may include a dangerous drop in blood pressure, flushing, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, tongue and nose, and loss of consciousness. Usually these symptoms are immediate and progress rapidly. Emergency medical attention should be sought at the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction.
When should I see an allergist?
Some allergies -- such as a mild case of hay fever -- may require no treatment, or may be controlled with the occasional use of over-the-counter medications. Others, however, may interfere with day-to-day activities, lessen the quality of life or, sometimes, be life-threatening. In these cases, individuals should seek the care of a physician to help them manage their disease.
If you suffer from asthma or allergies -- or suspect that you may have either -- an allergist will help you learn more about your condition and provide treatment that controls or eliminates your symptoms. Often, the symptoms of asthma or allergies develop gradually over a period of time.
Allergy sufferers may become so accustomed to chronic symptoms as sneezing, nasal congestion or wheezing that they do not consider their symptoms to be unusual. Yet, with the help of an allergist, these symptoms can usually be prevented or controlled and the patient's quality of life greatly improved.
How can an allergist help ?
Effectively controlling asthma and allergies requires planning, skill and patience. The allergist, with his or her specialized training and expertise in managing asthma and allergies, can develop a treatment plan for your individual condition. The goal will be to enable you to lead a life that is normal and symptom-free as possible.
To determine what allergens are involved, the allergist will usually perform allergy testing called scratch or prick skin test. Oral antihistamines should be avoided at least 72 hours prior to the test.
Scratch or prick skin test is done on the surface of the skin. A tiny amount of allergen extract is scratched across or lightly pricked into the skin. Test results are available within 15 minutes of testing. Once you know the specific allergens causing your symptoms, you can try to avoid exposure to the allergens, get specific medical treatment and if necessary, consider specific vaccination with the allergen, or “allergy shots.”
You should see an allergist if:
- Your allergies are causing secondary symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing.
- You experience hay fever or other allergy symptoms several months out of the year.
- Antihistamines and other over-the-counter medications do not control your allergy symptmms, or create unacceptable side effects, such as drowsiness.
- Your asthma or allergies are interfering with your ability to carry on day- to-day activities.
- Your asthma or allergies decrease the quality of your life
- You are experiencing warning signs of asthma such as:
- You sometimes have to struggle to catch your breath.
- You often wheeze or cough, especially at night or after exercise.
- You are frequently short of breath of feel a tightness in your chest.
- You have previously been diagnosed with asthma, but despite treatment, you have frequent acute asthma attacks.
Samitivej, We Care
Varatda Plainetr , M.D.
Pediatrics – Allergy
Diplomate American Board of Pediatrics
Diplomate American Board of Allergy and Immunology
For further information, please contact:
Pediatric Center (Children Center)
Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital
2nd Floor, Building 2
Tel: 66 (0) 2711-8236-7
Call Center: 66 (0) 2711-8181
Reference: Allergies and Asthma