My daughter was diagnosed as having atopy at an early age. Atopy is a somewhat broadly defined condition represented by a cluster of three main ‘sub conditions’. These are: Atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), hay fever, and asthma. The latter two constitute what is also called allergy-induced asthma. It is a potentially very frightening combination that can lead to the sufferer being unable to breathe. Asthma alone is a difficult condition to deal with, and having an allergic component doubles the challenge. To combat the problem, there are three main areas of focus that need to be concentrated upon. They are:
1: The allergic component. If it is suspected that there is an allergic component in an asthma sufferer, an allergy test needs to be performed. This test takes small amounts of common allergens (allergy-producing items) and touches the skin with them. The patches of skin that react identify that individual’s particular allergens. Armed with this knowledge, the asthmatic must then engage in a two-pronged approach of avoidance and medication. First, the sufferer should avoid, as much as reasonably possible, the items that produce allergic reactions. Be they dog dander, mold, dust, etc., the less time the sufferer spends around the allergen, the better. Next, the sufferer needs to be on some sort of antihistamine. Popular newer drugs such as Claritin or Zyrtec work well, as well as the old standard, Benadryl. These drugs will help with the unavoidable allergies like grass, leaves, etc. In some cases, a prescription antihistamine may be required if the sufferer’s allergies are not well controlled on over-the-counter products.
2: Daily asthma prevention product(s). Even if allergies are being somewhat effectively controlled with avoidance and antihistamines, that does not mean that the asthma sufferer will not experience asthmatic symptoms. To assist with the prevention of asthma flares, you and your doctor have a lot of options. There are corticosteroids (which fight inflammation in the lungs), bronchodilators (drugs that open airways in the lungs), and leukotriene modifiers (a kind of corticosteroid alternative), among others. Each of these therapies has its good and bad points, and you should discuss with your doctor all of your medical conditions and the potential side effects of treatment. Definitely let your doctor know if your asthma is not well-controlled on the medication you are using. There are combination drugs that combine inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators, such as Advair, that may be considered if a single therapy approach is not working.
3: Emergency inhalers. You might consider these ‘necessary evils’ of asthma treatment. Emergency inhalers like albuterol are actually fast-acting bronchodilators. They are not a long-term fix and are only to be used when symptoms (such as wheezing, gasping for breath, etc.) are present. These need to be taken with care, though, for overdosing is possible. If after a few puffs from your emergency inhaler you are still experiencing severe symptoms, it is time to head to urgent care or the emergency room. Let your doctor know how often you need to use your emergency inhaler, as this is one of the criterion your doctor uses when determining how well controlled your asthma is. NOTE: Even if you haven’t had to use your emergency inhaler in months, NEVER be without one! Asthma does not always follow a specific pattern, and an asthma attack can occur any time, any where, and your emergency inhaler may just save your life!
Each of these three areas will need to be addressed if you have allergy-induced asthma. The goal is to get the sufferer so that emergency inhalers are rarely (if ever) needed. The more well controlled the asthma, the more of life that you can enjoy. Allergy-induced asthma can be a frightening diagnosis to receive, but with proper treatment it does not have to be a condition that inhibits your enjoyment of life.