By Erin Hicks
If you already have asthma, here's a bit of bad news: It's likely you may also have an allergy, which could make this spring allergy season particularly challenging.
A study published in the April issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), found that 75 percent of adults ages 20 to 40 with asthma have at least one allergy. 65 percent of asthmatic adults ages 55 and older have at least one allergy.
This findings are important because, while allergists knew that children and young adults with asthma were likely to also be sensitive to at least one environmental allergen, they didn't know such a high percentage of asthmatic adults also suffered from allergies.
For the study, 2,573 adults were surveyed in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; 151 patients were diagnosed with asthma, and the subjects were tested for 19 different allergens.
The asthmatic patients 55 and older were most allergic to house dust mites (36 percent), followed by rye grass (33 percent), cats (27 percent), dogs (24 percent) and German cockroaches (10 percent). For people with asthma in that age group, 50 percent were sensitized to at least one indoor allergen and 39 percent to at least one outdoor allergen.
Among 20- to 40-year-old asthma patients, 60 percent had at least one indoor allergen and 53 percent had at least one outdoor allergen. The most common environmental allergens in the group were dogs and house mites.
Asthma in patients 55 years or older was more strongly associated with sensitization to indoor allergen levels alone, whereas asthma in those 20 to 40 was strongly associated with sensitization to both indoor and outdoor allergens.
"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," said allergist Paula Busse, MD, lead study author in a press release. "These findings are important, and can help lead to proper diagnosis and treatment."
Allergies or Asthma?
There sometimes isn't much of a difference between an allergic reaction and an asthma attack -- in fact, the coughing and wheezing people experience when they have asthma is often triggered by the same things that give others hay fever.
An allergy occurs when your body's immune system responds to an element in the environment (an allergen or trigger) as if it were a threat. Swelling and irritation are common allergic responses.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that can be triggered by many things, including exposure to allergens.
"Both asthma and allergies can strike at any age, and are serious diseases," said allergist Richard Weber, MD, ACAAI president in a press release. "Anyone who thinks they may be having symptoms of an allergy or asthma should see a board-certified allergist. Allergists are experts in diagnosing and treating both conditions."
"If you can control your allergies, you have a better chance of adequately managing your asthma," Summit Shah, MD, an allergist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio told Everyday Health in August.
According to the ACAAI, more than 50 million Americans have at least one allergy, a number that is also on the rise. Could that be because more people with asthma are also developing allergies?
"It could be one of many creating this perfect storm for allergies," said Dr. Weber in a press release. "Other factors, such as the hygiene hypothesis, climate change and an increase in awareness and education can also be reasons for this growth."
"Adults With Asthma Very Likely to Have Allergies Too" originally appeared on Everyday Health.