Allergies and Asthma

It starts out with a simple sneeze. But when one sneeze turns into three, then five, you suspect the worst: allergies. An allergy is the body's response to an irritant you breathe (such as dust mites, pollen, mold, or pet dander), eat (such as dairy products, wheat, or peanuts), or touch (such as wool, fabric softener, or perfume). Inside the body, this perceived invader or allergen is attacked by IgE antibodies (immunoglobulin E). The antibodies trigger the release of chemicals known as histamines, which set off a chain reaction that leads to any of a number of symptoms, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, and coughing (respiratory or drug allergy); itchy throat, mouth, and eyes (respiratory allergy); stomachache, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea (food allergy); itchy, reddening, swelling, or irritated skin (drug, food, and insect allergies); and swollen, stiff, and/or painful joints (food or drug allergy).

Allergies and AsthmaNine of out ten cases of asthma are triggered by allergies. In people with asthma, another group of chemicals called leukotrienes cause asthmatic symptoms, which include swelling of the lung lining, spasm of the airway tubes, and excessive production of thick mucus. Leukotrienes are approximately one thousand times more potent than antihistamines in causing symptoms.

Symptoms of asthma attack include coughing, wheezing, and a feeling of tightness in the chest. Some attacks are mild, others may be life-threatening. Asthma can be triggered by a number of irritants, or even exercise. Asthma should be treated and monitored by a doctor. You may be given medication to prevent attacks, as well as a bronchodilator to open restricted airways during an attack. You should try to identify allergens so that you can avoid them.

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