When someone is exposed to an allergen – a substance to which their body is sensitive – they may produce ‘histamines’, which cause inflammation and irritation as they work to rid the body of the allergen. In the case of allergy induced asthma, the histamines go to work on the bronchial passages and lungs, making it difficult for the allergic person to breathe.
The incidence of allergy induced asthma has grown almost geometrically in recent years, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. They suspect that part of the reason may be the increased exposure of children to some common allergens. This seems to be borne out by population based studies – African-American and Hispanic children living in the inner city are far more likely to develop allergy induced asthma than Caucasian children in the same cities, and even those children are more likely to develop allergy induced asthma than suburban and rural children of the same socioeconomic level.
A number of reasons have been advanced for the disparity, but the most likely is simply that Black and Hispanic children are far more likely to live in the most crowded old neighborhoods of the city. Crowding is the biggest risk factor for the presence of common household pests like cockroaches and rodents, and cockroach parts and rodent droppings are two of the most common allergens in children with allergy induced asthma.
Diagnosing Allergy Induced Asthma
Doctors will diagnose asthma differently depending on the age of the patient. Children under five, for instance, may find it difficult to follow instructions for breathing capacity tests. Doctors will often use history, both the child’s and the family medical history, to help determine the possibility of asthma. Often, if asthma is suspected, the doctor will prescribe a bronchodilator. If it helps, the diagnosis is confirmed.
In older children and adults, doctors may perform a series of breathing capacity tests with a peak flow meter and a spirometer to help determine the extent of an asthma problem.
Generally, doctors don’t use allergy tests to diagnose asthma, but if there’s a reason to believe that a specific allergen is a problem, allergic dermatitis tests may be used to confirm or rule out possible allergens. Knowing that a specific substance or food is a problem can help you avoid it and reduce your risk of asthma attacks.
Treating Allergy Induced Asthma
The good news is that interventions to reduce exposure to allergens seems to be as effective a treatment for allergy induced asthma as corticosteroid inhalers. If your child has been diagnosed with allergy induced asthma, there are ways that you can help control your child’s symptoms. Besides using inhalers and nebulizers as directed by your doctor, you can also keep your home – and especially your child’s bedroom – as close to allergen free as possible. Mattress covers, pillow cases, air filters and pest control measures can reduce your child’s exposure to allergens that cause allergy induced asthma to worsen into acute stages.