How does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms?
An allergic response occurs when immune system proteins (antibodies) mistakenly identify a harmless substance, such as tree pollen, as an invader. In an attempt to protect your body from the substance, antibodies bind to the allergen. The chemicals released by your immune system lead to allergy signs and symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes or skin reactions. For some people, this same reaction also affects the lungs and airways, leading to asthma symptoms.
Are allergies and asthma treated differently?
Most treatments are designed to treat either asthma or allergies. But a few treatments help with both conditions, for example:
Leukotriene modifier. Montelukast (Singulair) is a medication that eases both allergy and asthma symptoms. Called a leukotriene modifier, this taken-daily pill helps control immune system chemicals released during an allergic reaction. In rare cases, this and other leukotriene modifiers have been linked to psychological reactions, including suicidal thinking. Seek medical advice right away for any unusual psychological reaction to one of these medications.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy). Allergy shots can help treat asthma by gradually reducing your immune system response to certain allergy triggers. Immunotherapy involves getting regular injections of a tiny amount of the allergens that trigger your symptoms. Your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergens over time, and your allergic reactions diminish. In turn, asthma symptoms decrease as well. This treatment generally requires regular injections over a period of three to five years.
Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy. When you have an allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific substance as something harmful and releases antibodies, known as IgE, against the culprit allergen. The next time you encounter that allergen, the IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into your bloodstream.