There are two main types of asthma: allergic and non-allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma seen in children and adolescents. Approximately 90% of all asthmatic children suffer from both allergies and asthma, compared to 50% of all adult asthmatics. About one third of all children with asthma get the disease before their second birthday, and in most cases it is fully developed before the child reaches the school age.
If you are allergic, your immune system is overreacting to normally non-toxic substances, for example, pets, pollens, dust mites or certain foods. When you are exposed to the substance of your intolerance, your body will produce something called IgE antibodies. The antibodies will trigger an allergic reaction causing your eyes to become watery, itchy and turn red. Sneezing and hay fever are other common signs of allergies. If you are suffering from allergic asthma, the allergic reaction may also trigger your asthma symptoms. It may be difficult to make your allergy disappear completely by using medication, but by avoiding the substances you are intolerant to, and by handling your asthma treatment properly, the chances are good that you will avoid having an asthma attack. Keep in mind that asthma and allergies are not the same, thus must be treated with different medicines.
Pet allergies are usually developed during childhood and imply a reaction of the body to substances found in the pet's urine, saliva or sebaceous glands. It is not the actual hair of the animal that is provoking allergies. The allergy may emerge both indoors and outdoors, it sometimes even appears when you are standing several meters away from the animal you are allergic to. It is possible to be allergic to any pet with hair, but the most common allergies are allergies to dogs, cats and horses. Allergens from pets spread easily from the clothes and hair of pet owners, and are found everywhere - on buses, in schools, in work places and public spaces - regardless of whether there has been an animal in that place or not. Cat allergens especially have a tendency to get nettled in everywhere, and can still be left in your house even years after the cat was removed.
Many dream of having a dog or a cat in spite of having an allergy, and some people allergic to pets do seem to be able to tolerate some dog breeds. The amount of allergens may vary greatly from dog to dog, and unfortunately, there are no pets entirely safe for people with allergies. Cats, asthma and allergies are rarely a good combination. In addition, if you are allergic to one pet, you run an increased risk of developing allergies to other pets, so this is why it is best not to have any pets in your home if you are suffering from allergic asthma. Even if your symptoms are mild they may in the long run lead to chronic asthma if you remain in constant contact with something you are allergic to. However, it is possible that you may tolerate other people's pets without problems if you make sure to take your asthma- and allergy medications and use your common sense. Turtles, snakes and lizards are other options for pets, if you can accept one without fur.
Hay fever is peaking during spring and early summer when the tree pollen is blooming. Sometimes people with broad leaf tree allergies also react to nuts, apples, stone fruits and raw carrots. If you eat something you are intolerant to you may experience throat itch, nasal congestion or asthma.
If you are allergic to pollen it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with a doctor before the start of the pollen season in order to plan the medication and to start the treatment in time. Pollen reports on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet will also help you keep track of the prognosis from early spring to late autumn.
Many people with allergic asthma are hypersensitive to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic animals found everywhere where ventilation is poor. They feed on shed skin and prefer warm and damp environments, especially beds. It is not possible to get rid of dust mites completely, but it is possible to decrease the amount by letting air into the house, keeping the temperature down in your bedroom and stopping dust from gathering. Sometimes it may be necessary to use dust mites prevention covers.
Some asthmatic people are also allergic to bees and wasps. Stings from bees and wasps may cause severe allergic reactions which in some cases are life threatening. If you know that you are hypersensitive it may be a good idea to go through an immunotherapy treatment, which is an allergy vaccine treatment to bees/wasps.
UK/GEN/15/0055a Date of preparation: December 2015
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