Community Pediatric Asthma Service

Female child blowing nose

Asthma and Allergies

Many people who have asthma, also have allergies which can worsen their asthma symptoms and cause their asthma to be uncontrolled.  Poorly controlled hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) can worsen asthma symptoms. It is very important to carefully identify and avoid those things you are allergic to.  For more information:

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What is Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)?

85% of children with asthma also have hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.  Allergic rhinitis causes a swelling in the nose, usually making your nose itch and run. This may happen when you are around  dogs, cats, pollen, mold or dust. It is important to recognize your symptoms and then discuss these with your doctor.  Do you have these symptoms? 

   ~Watery runny nose

  ~Nasal obstruction  

              ~Sneezing (especially violent and in bouts)

              ~Itchy nose

                        ~Water, red itchy eyes                                       

Your allergy questions answered

by Dr. Vander Leek, Allergist/Immunologist, MD, FRCPC,  a clinical immunologist specializing in pediatric allergies

Definitely! If you are continuously exposed to one of your allergic triggers, your asthma will be more severe, and you will likely require more medicine to control your symptoms. Many people who are exposed to a pet or other allergen continuously will not experience the immediate symptoms (for example hay fever, wheeze), but this does not mean that they are not allergic. This is because constant exposure will contribute to inflammation in the airways of your lungs, and inflammation causes asthma symptoms. This constant exposure also makes it more likely for you to experience more severe symptoms when you are exposed to other triggers (an additive effect). Intermittent exposure to allergic triggers can cause immediate, and occasionally severe asthma symptoms. All allergic triggers that have been identified should be avoided, so that your asthma is milder and easier to control on less medicine.

Allergy testing is used to identify allergic triggers that may be worsening allergic conditions including asthma, hay fever, and food allergies. Once allergic triggers are identified, steps can be taken to reduce exposure, and help to reduce the severity of symptoms. Most allergists will use a prick skin test to identify allergic triggers, a procedure in which a small drop of allergenic extract is placed on the forearm or back, and the surface of the skin is pricked through the drop. A small hive will appear at the site of a positive test within twenty minutes.

You bet. Someone who has an allergy to a food (including dairy products), and also has asthma, can develop immediate worsening of asthma symptoms during an allergic reaction to that food. On the other hand, it would be extremely unlikely for food allergies to cause chronic or persistent asthma symptoms. An assessment by a trained allergist is necessary to confirm or rule out any concerns about allergy triggers, including food allergy. A food allergy can be life threatening, especially if someone also has asthma.

Asthma and Anaphylaxis

People with asthma who are also diagnosed with life-threatening allergies are more susceptible to severe breathing problems when experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. It is extremely important for patients with asthma to keep their asthma well controlled. In cases where an anaphylactic reaction is suspected but there is uncertainty whether or not the person is experiencing an asthma attack, epinephrine should be used first. Epinephrine can be used to treat life-threatening asthma attacks as well as anaphylactic reactions. People with asthma who are at risk of anaphylaxis should carry their asthma medications (e.g. puffers/inhalers) with their epinephrine auto-injector. Both anaphylaxis and asthma should be listed on their medical identification (e.g. MedicAlert® bracelet).

Source:  Anaphylaxis in Schools and Other Settings, 3rd Edition, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, August 2014, pp. 8



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Material on this website has been designed for information purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.