Allergies relates to asthma in both children and adults

February 23, 2015
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Asthma has often been linked with allergies. However, these studies have all focused on children or teens, rather than adults. A recent study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the medical journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), shows that 75 percent of adults with asthma between the ages of 20 and 40 have at least one allergy, and that 65 percent of those older than 55 have at least one allergy.

During the study, a total of 2,573 adults were surveyed. 151 of the participants had asthma, and all were tested for 19 different allergens.

The most common allergies among the patients over 55 were dust mites (36 percent), ryegrass (33 percent), cats (27 percent), dogs (24 percent) and German cockroaches (10 percent). 50 percent were allergic to at least one indoor source, and 39 percent were allergic to at least one outdoor source.

For asthma patients aged 20 to 40 years, 60 percent were allergic to an indoor source and 53 percent were allergic to an outdoor source. Similar to the older group, the most common allergies in this group were to house mites and dogs.

The numbers show that people 55 years and older were more likely to be sensitized to indoor allergens, while in the 20 to 40 age group they were sensitized with both indoor and outdoor allergens.

One of the studies authors states in a press release that, “Allergists have known the prevalence of allergies among asthmatic children is high at 60 to 80 percent, but it was thought allergies were not as common in asthmatic adults,” These findings are important, and can help lead to proper diagnosis and treatment.”

Although asthma and allergies may have similar symptoms–coughing and wheezing–they have very different causes.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that both narrows and inflames the air passages. It is also characterized by a tight chest and a feeling of being unable to get enough air as well as coughing and wheezing. Although the commonly recognized symptoms of asthma occur in episodes or attacks, an asthmatic patient always has it.

Allergies, on the other hand, are caused when the immune system overreacts to the presence of a substance, or allergen, releasing chemicals to deal with what it thinks is a threat. Reactions range from mild to severe.

Additionally, while allergies are always to a specific allergen, an asthma attack can have a number of triggers, including exercise, pollen, and mold. Illnesses and certain drugs may also trigger an asthma attack.

The exact causes for both are unclear. They are likely caused by a mixture of environmental and genetic factors. Both of these afflictions also tend to start at childhood, although people of every age can get them. There is no cure for either, although a variety of treatments are available.

The ACAAI database says that over 50 million Americans have at least one allergy, while 26 million have asthma. Furthermore, the number of people with allergies and the number of people with asthma is rising. It is possible that these two numbers are connected.

However, Richard Weber, the president of ACAAI, says that, “Other factors, such as the hygiene hypothesis, climate change and an increase in awareness and education can also be reasons for this growth.”

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Dr. Chacko and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. See the video here.