Have you ever noticed during a certain time of the year you find it difficult to breathe? Inflamed sinuses and tightened airways can make us miserable. You might assume it is because of seasonal allergies, but did you know that asthma and allergies can be linked?

Allergies

Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to an otherwise harmless, foreign substance that enters the body. The immune system produces antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful and this causes an allergic response. Allergic reactions vary but can include inflammation of the skin, sinuses or airways, and can cause coughing, runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing and itchy, red, watery eyes.

Asthma

Asthma is a condition that triggers a reaction in the lungs and bronchial passages, causing the airways to narrow and produce extra mucus. Some of the symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Every person affected by asthma will have different triggers and levels of severity in symptoms.

Asthma affects about 25 million people in the U.S., and of this group, approximately 60 percent suffer from allergic asthma, or allergy-induced asthma. However, it is important to know that while allergies and asthma have a strong connection, they are not one in the same.

Allergic asthma (allergy-induced asthma)

The same substances that trigger hay fever or allergy symptoms can also cause asthma symptoms. This is known as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. Some common allergens that act as asthma triggers include pollen, dust, mold and pet dander.

Approximately 80 percent of asthma in children and 50 percent in adults is considered to be related to allergies. Both allergies and asthma tend to be seasonal. In the spring, summer and fall there is a larger concentration of pollen and mold in the air. In the winter, when we spend more time indoors, there is a higher chance of reacting to dust and pet dander due to a lack of air circulation from outside.

Keep in mind, allergens are not the only asthma trigger and allergies on their own may make it difficult to breathe. If you have any questions or concerns about your allergies or your ability to breathe clearly, contact your physician.

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Dr. Jill Hanson is a pediatrician for Boys Town, specializing in allergy, asthma, immunology and pediatric pulmonology. Read more about her here

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