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Allergic asthma attacks

by La Boite à Grains 05 Jun 2024
Crise d'asthme allergique - La Boite à Grains

by Dominique Vanier, B.Sc.H., M.Env.Sc.

Spring has finally sprung, and you're enjoying the return of warm weather as you walk your dog. The day is beautiful, everything is perfect... when suddenly your breathing becomes more difficult, your chest tightens and you start coughing and sneezing.
You look like you're having an asthma attack!


Allergic asthma is a particular type of allergy that manifests itself as an asthma attack. In fact, it's the most common form of asthma. In the presence of an allergen, some people sneeze and water; those suffering from allergic asthma are more likely to have an asthma attack.

Whether asthma is allergic or non-allergic in origin, the symptoms are much the same. Common allergic asthma triggers include pollen, mold spores, animal dander and saliva, as well as dust mites and their droppings. When the immune system is confronted with any of these triggers, it overreacts by producing a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These IgE antibodies then instruct the immune system to deploy a rapid and aggressive replica, which causes the release of chemical mediators of inflammation, such as histamine.

Asthma is characterized by four main signs:

  1. bronchospasm (tightening of the airway muscles),
  2. edema (fluid accumulation),
  3. inflammation
  4. mucus secretion.

Histamine is largely responsible for asthma symptoms, including inflammation and narrowing of the airways, and excessive mucus secretion. It's not just common allergens that can trigger allergic asthma. Irritants such as tobacco smoke, air pollution and perfumes can also induce an attack.

Prevention and appropriate intervention are essential to lung health

If you suffer from allergic asthma, it's important to work with a qualified health professional to develop a plan that will help you prevent future attacks.

Your doctor will provide you with an inhaler (commonly called a "pump"), which delivers medication to the lungs. Inhalers usually contain a corticosteroid and a short- or long-acting beta-agonist (bronchodilator), depending on the type of relief you're looking for.

There are also other ways to prevent allergic asthma:

  • Analyze your family history. People from families with several cases of atopy (allergies, eczema, asthma, etc.) are at greater risk of developing allergic asthma. Avoiding environmental allergens and triggers, especially for at-risk children, can help prevent future allergy and asthma attacks.
  • Avoid known triggers. Known triggers such as cigarette smoke and chemicals in the workplace or environment should be avoided. Ban smoking inside the home.
  • Improve indoor air quality. If your allergic asthma is exacerbated by the presence of dust mites, you could cover your mattress, box spring and pillows with anti-allergen covers. Weekly washing of sheets in hot water can also help eliminate dust mites.
  • Relieve your symptoms. In mild cases of allergic asthma accompanied by other symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, scratchy throat or burning eyes, Allergy Relief can help reduce histamine levels and alleviate symptoms not associated with asthma.
  • Monitor your asthma symptoms. Talk to your doctor about a reference value for your peak respiratory flow (a measure of how efficiently air moves through your lungs). Peak flow values can be used to detect airway narrowing in the hours and even days before asthma symptoms appear. A value of less than 50% of the reference value (i.e. your "normal" value) can be a warning sign of a serious, even dangerous asthma attack. Pocket-sized peak flow meters are available from your doctor.
  • Exercise within your limits. For people with asthma, moderate physical activity can improve lung function and breathing. In fact, lack of exercise, combined with a high body mass index (BMI), is a risk factor for an asthmatic reaction. Exercise is not only safe for asthma sufferers, but also helps improve their quality of life.

Possible complications of allergic asthma include hives, swelling, difficulty swallowing, fainting, confusion and slurred speech. If you experience any of these problems, it's important to see a doctor right away.


Dominique Vanier, B.Sc.H., M.Env.Sc.

References :


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