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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Allergic Asthma

What is allergic asthma?
What are the symptoms of allergic asthma?
What factors can cause or trigger allergic asthma?
How many people suffer from allergic asthma?
What is the relationship between allergies and allergic asthma?
What is IgE and why is it important in allergic asthma?
What treatments are available for people suffering from allergic asthma?

What is allergic asthma?
Allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Its symptoms are made worse by exposure to an allergen (e.g., dust, mold, pollen, animal dander) to which the patient has been sensitized.

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What are the symptoms of allergic asthma?
The symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same. They include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness. These symptoms are often provoked by an identifiable trigger.

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What factors can cause or trigger allergic asthma?
A family history of allergies is the most important predictor of whether a person will develop asthma. Environmental substances (allergens) can trigger an exacerbation - or attack - in patients with allergic asthma. The allergens include tree, grass, and weed pollen, plus molds, animal dander, dust mites and cockroach droppings. Asthma attacks can also be triggered by viral infections, exercise, cold air and non-specific irritants.

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How many people suffer from allergic asthma?
Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, of the 17 million asthma sufferers in the United States, 10 million (approximately 60%) have allergic asthma. Three million are children and 7 million are adults.

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What is the relationship between allergies and allergic asthma?
Most people with asthma also suffer from other allergic disorders. In fact, research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that at least 70% of asthmatics also suffer from allergic rhinitis or "hay fever." Nasal allergies and allergic asthma are both triggered by exposure to allergens, initiating a series of events that result in tightening of the airways, swelling of the lining of the airways, nose and eyes, and mucus production.

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What is IgE and why is it important in allergic asthma?
IgE (Immunoglobulin E) is an antibody in the human immune system that plays a critical role in the allergic process. When an individual is sensitized to an allergen, he or she produces an IgE antibody directed against that allergen. The IgE antibody attaches to mast cells. When the individual is exposed to that same allergen again, the allergen binds to the IgE on the mast cell causing it to release substances such as histamine, prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which cause symptoms such as chest tightness, coughing and wheezing.

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What treatments are available for people suffering from allergic asthma?
It is important for people with asthma to seek treatment. First, patients are evaluated to identify their specific allergic triggers and a program of allergen avoidance is recommended. Asthma is treated with medications including anti-inflammatory agents, such as corticosteroids and anti-leukotrienes that decrease inflammation in the lungs, and bronchodilators used for relief of symptoms. Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a program of injections that reduces allergic sensitization.

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Allergy & Asthma Affiliates / 2121 Highland Avenue / Knoxville, TN 37916 / (865) 525-2640