Inflammation. It’s the one key characteristic that nasal allergies and asthma have in common. The same triggers that cause nasal allergy symptoms can also prompt an asthmatic attack.
More than half of people who suffer from asthma also have nasal allergies. Asthma may be induced by other causes, however, including skin and food allergies, as well as exercise. In these cases, the irritants are different, but the result is the same-inflammation leading to constriction of the airways and subsequent coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
When nasal allergies are present in conjunction with asthma, it’s even more important to manage triggers to avoid a double whammy of miserable symptoms. For these people, asthma symptoms are triggered by an allergy to airborne substances such as pollen, mold, dust mites, or pet dander.
Allergic responses affect the nasal passage and bronchial airways in a similar fashion. Symptoms occur when antibodies in your blood are exposed to an allergen. These antibodies can trigger symptoms such as nasal congestion, scratchy and watery eyes, sneezing, and for many, inflammation of the airways. When inflammation occurs here, the airways become narrowed, making it difficult for air to come into and out of the lungs.
In an online interview at Everyday Health, Dr. Stanley Fineman, an Atlanta-based allergist, noted that while some nasal allergy suffers don’t experience asthma, they can be prone to it, given certain triggers.
“We even see patients that have nasal allergy symptoms alone with no problems of asthma, and about 40 percent of them can have asthma type symptoms given certain situations, let’s say, if they’re exposed to heavy dose of allergies during a bad pollen season or with exposure to a cat that they might be allergic to or even just a virus,” Fineman said.
“So basically, the airway is the same. In terms of the nasal lining, it looks almost the same under a microscope as the lining in the lung, so it’s really the same process whether it’s upper airway or lower airway. That’s why we sometimes refer to the nasobronchial link or nasobronchial reflex, and that’s really the connection of the airways.”
Recognizing the relationship between the body’s immune system, which is affected in nasal allergies and how the airways react can help you manage your nasal allergies as well as asthma. If you have nasal allergies and are concerned that you may have asthma, Asthma.com recommends you ask yourself the following questions and discuss your answers with your doctor:
Do I wake up in the middle of the night because I’m coughing, wheezing, or having a hard time breathing? If yes, how often? Have I had to cut back on routine activities like walking up stairs or exercising because I’m coughing, wheezing, or having a hard time breathing? Do I feel I can’t do things because I’m concerned that I’ll experience these symptoms?
Both conditions require regular monitoring of symptoms. Discuss treatment options with your doctor. These may include inhalers, nasal sprays, antihistamines and/or decongestant or immunotherapy shots.
For people with seasonal nasal allergies, special care must be taken to manage both allergies and asthma during spring and fall. Known which allergens are your triggers and keep abreast of pollen levels in your area. A good site to consult is the National Allergy Bureau’s website which lists pollen levels at monitoring stations across the county. When your allergens are high, Asthma.com recommends the following tips to help manage symptoms.
Keep windows closed at night and while in your car. Use air conditioning. Stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Ttake your peak flow meter and medication(s) with you on trips. Don’t mow lawns or come in contact with freshly cut grass if grass is a trigger for you.