Know the Symptoms of Allergy and Asthma

Allergic asthma is a breathing disorder that occurs when the airways a person breathes through become narrow or are tightened due to the inhalation of or exposure to an allergen.

Some common allergens that are known to trigger an episode of allergic asthma include pollens, animal dander, and mold spores.

This form of asthma is more common in children, although it can also occur in adults. Here is a brief discussion about what allergy and asthma mean and the symptoms of these conditions.

What is allergy or asthma?

Allergies occur due to the hypersensitive response of the immune system to certain substances. Allergies can occur due to what we eat, the products we use, and even the way we breathe.

Allergic asthma is a condition caused due to the tightening of the airways causing difficulty in breathing. The tightening or narrowing of the airways can occur due to the inhalation of something in the air such as pollen, dander, and mold spores. The specific allergens are also called triggers.

The allergens or triggers that can set off an attack of breathlessness in one patient may not affect other people. Hence, the treatment of asthma needs to be aimed at identifying and eliminating the specific substances to which that patient is allergic.

Pathogenesis of asthma

When a person is allergic to a substance, his or her body can create a response to that allergen believing it to be a threat. As a result, the immune cells fire up their defense mechanisms to contain or fight off the danger.

The immune system, in an attempt to attack and destroy the perceived danger, releases a type of antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is meant to protect the body by fighting harmful invaders. However, an exaggerated response of the immune system can result in a higher amount of IgE being secreted by the immune cells. This can cause the airways to become swollen and narrower, making it difficult for the person to breathe.

The response of the immune system to an allergen can lead to the development of abnormal changes in the airways such as:

  1. Swelling or irritation of the airway linings due to inflammation
  2. Production of mucus, which is thicker and more copious than normal
  3. Narrowing of the airways due to the constriction or tightening of the muscles in the walls of the bronchi and bronchioles

You can attend our AARC Approved CEUs for Nurses to learn more about the pathogenesis of asthma and allergy and the symptoms of this condition.

What are the symptoms of allergies and asthma?

Patients who have allergic asthma often develop typical symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing or a whistling sound in the chest while breathing
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Frequently coughing, especially at night
  • Tightness in the chest with a feeling as if something is squeezing or pressing the lungs

These symptoms are often severe enough to necessitate a visit to an emergency room or hospital admission.

Some patients also experience symptoms that are not directly linked to breathing difficulty but could be closely related to allergies.

Some of thesesymptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • A stuffy nose
  • Wateringof the eyes
  • Itching in the eyes
  • Skin rashes
  • Redness of the skin
  • Appearance of hives on the skin

These symptoms are usually less intense than the typical asthma symptoms such as breathing difficulty and wheezing in the chest.

Our Respiratory Therapy Continuing Education CEUs are aimed at providing comprehensive guidelines about the treatment and prevention of allergies and asthma to help medical professionals manage these conditions in a more efficient manner.


Allergic asthma vs. non-allergic asthma

An asthma attack that is triggered due to an allergy often presents with a similar set of symptoms as that of the breathing difficulties caused due to factors other than an allergy. In both cases, the patient experiences a severe flaring up of the symptoms, especially difficultyin breathing and chest tightness.

However, the major factor that can help differentiate between these two forms of asthma is the cause of the attack. When a patient experiences severe asthma symptoms following exposure to or due to breathing in an allergen, it is more likely to be allergic asthma.

Also, in patients with allergic asthma, the symptoms tend to recur every time there is exposure to specific allergens while non-allergic asthma may occur at any time irrespective of the exposure to any specific substances.

Common allergens that can trigger the symptoms of allergic asthma

There are more than hundreds of allergens that can be found all around us. They can be present in indoor as well as outdoor environments. It is important to identify what triggers asthma in a patient to help him or her avoid the attacks of breathlessness.

Some possible allergens that can trigger an attack of allergic asthma include:

  • Dust mites: Dust mites are small particles often shaped like spiders. They can be found in the soft surfaces of indoor objects such as carpets, coverings of soft furniture as well as clothes. Dust mites eat the flakes that are naturally shed by our skin. The mites and even their feces can be responsible for triggering the asthma attacksin patients who are hypersensitive to them.
  • Pollen: Pollens are small powdery substances thatare released by plants to support reproduction. The most common forms of pollen that can trigger an attack of allergic asthma include weeds and grass.
  • Dander: Dander refers to the skin flakes shed by pets. Animal dander and hair are the common allergens known to triggerasthmaattacks.
  • Mold: Mold is typically found in places,which hold moisture such as basements. Mold can produce spores that can get into the air and enter our body while breathing thus triggering an asthma attack.
  • Cockroaches: These pests are commonly found in almost all homes and buildings. Asthma attacks may be triggered due to the saliva,feces, and other body parts and fluids of cockroaches.


While asthma can not be cured or prevented, it is possible to reduce the intensity and frequency of the attacks by identifying the triggers and controlling the environment of the patient.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals can attend our Respiratory Therapy Webinars to learn more about the common allergens that can trigger asthma and the best ways to manage this condition.