Do you suffer from respiratory allergies? Find out how to prevent and treat them
Like respiratory allergies are an exaggerated response of the body to a substance (allergen) which, in this case, affects the respiratory system of our body.
These allergies, like others, can begin to manifest themselves at any age, from childhood to adulthood.
They can have various origins, but they always have in common a hypersensitivity of the immune system to certain elements that cause these allergies.
Discover its main symptoms, but also how to avoid or control this health problem.
Respiratory allergies: learn how to control this problem
Respiratory allergies, regardless of the associated allergen(s), can trigger problems such as asthma or allergic rhinitis.
Warning signs may include:
- Dry, irritating cough;
- Red eyes;
- Among other symptoms.
The most important thing is to be diagnosed and treated rigorously in order to control as much as possible these uncomfortable manifestations that interfere with the well-being of the individual.
Main types of respiratory allergies
There are two major types of respiratory allergies: rhinitis, which affects the upper airways and affects about 500 million people, and asthma, which affects the lower airways.
According to the Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, 25% of the Portuguese population suffers from allergic rhinitis and 10% from asthma.
Allergies can be divided into two phases.
|Sensitization phase||The individual does not yet show symptoms, even with exposure to the allergen.|
|Phase of the allergic reaction||An allergic reaction occurs and may include signs such as red eyes, difficulty breathing, erythema or pruritus, among others.|
Certainly, the typical reactions of respiratory allergies vary depending on the allergen, i.e. the agent responsible for the allergy, or possibly on certain seasons of the year (seasonal).
It is also important to know that these different reactions can appear in isolation or in association and that their manifestation can be acute, in a moment of crisis, or continuous, for example in daily life.
Depending, of course, on the individual’s sensitivity to the allergen, it can be said that as soon as the allergenic agent comes into contact with the patient’s body, it can cause symptoms, such as:
|Irritating dry cough|
|Several sneezes in a row|
|Red nose, rhinorrhea (runny nose) and/or nasal congestion|
|Red and watery eyes|
|Noise in the chest|
|Feeling of shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing|
Specific symptoms of allergic rhinitis
The signs associated with rhinitis can occur at certain seasons of the year (seasonal rhinitis), for example, or throughout the year (perennial rhinitis). In the latter case, there is a reaction to one or more allergens that are permanently present in the environment (e.g. dust mites).
Approximately 53% to 70% of rhinitis cases progress to sinusitis, and in some situations (40%), its evolution is towards asthma. In allergic rhinitis, the allergen is in the air when inhaled, which causes inflammation of the nasal mucosa and can lead to :
|Allergic rhinitis: symptoms|
|Red and watery eyes|
|Red and runny nose/congestion|
|Irritating dry cough|
|Several sneezes in a row|
Specific symptoms of allergic asthma
In allergic asthma, there is a variable and reversible obstruction of the lower airways in the bronchi with inflammation and bronchial hyper-reactivity. These asthma attacks are characterized by bronchial contractions due to edema and/or excess mucus, which leads to obstruction of air entry from the outside.
Approximately 5-15% of Europeans suffer from allergic asthma, to varying degrees. In addition, many asthma patients (about 80%) also suffer from rhinitis, which is considered a risk factor for the development of asthma.
|Allergic asthma: symptoms|
|Feeling of shortness of breath|
|Wheezing or whistling while breathing|
|Secretions or mucus|
|Pain or pressure in the chest|
When the various symptoms occur simultaneously and/or with daily frequency, physical consequences may occur that affect the patient’s daily life, such as:
- Headaches or fatigue;
- Decreased school/work performance;
- Deprivation of quality sleep.
Respiratory allergies correspond to an exacerbated inflammatory reaction of our respiratory tree, due to exposure to one or more allergens. The most frequent are:
|Mites||These are microscopic creatures whose proteins and excrement can cause allergies. They are very present in curtains, mattresses, carpets, pillows, etc.|
|Pollen||These are particles of angiosperms, coming from flowers, most often in spring, that is to say during the pollination periods, which fly in the air, giving rise to allergy.|
|Mushrooms||These are microscopic creatures that prefer poorly ventilated and damp environments, such as cabinets, closets, bathrooms and dusty spaces.|
|Pet hair (epithelium)||This allergy is not so much due to the hair as to the allergens in the saliva and/or feces, especially of the dog and cat, that have come into contact with their hair.|
|Smoke (e.g. tobacco)|
Factors that promote respiratory allergies
There are certain things that can make it more likely that a person will have allergies. Take note of some of these genetic and environmental factors.
|Genetic and environmental factors that promote the development of respiratory allergies|
|Having a family history of allergies|
|Frequency of dusty places|
|High frequency of humidity or poorly ventilated spaces|
|Suffering from a respiratory tract infection (mainly viral)|
|Inhalation irritants (non-specific)|
|Smoking or passive contact with tobacco|
|Having bad eating habits|
|Taking certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.|
|Suffering from stress and anxiety.|
Diagnosis and treatment
The diagnosis of respiratory allergies should be made by a general practitioner or allergist.
To do this, he or she must base the diagnosis on the symptomatology described above, as well as on the results of allergy tests. These tests make it possible to identify the allergen(s) causing the allergy or respiratory allergies.
Although there is no cure, respiratory allergies can be controlled. This requires appropriate therapy, which must take into account the patient’s medical history.
In general, prescribed medications are aimed at relieving symptoms and combating the respiratory allergy. This is the case with antihistamines, which are able to block the action of histamine, a substance produced by the body, during an allergic attack.
In addition, it is essential to avoid contact with the allergen(s) as much as possible in order to prevent flare-ups.
|How to prevent the symptoms of respiratory allergies? Careful identification of triggering factors|
|No objects that collect dust or moisture.|
|Clean floors, furniture, mattresses and pillows with dust mite products.|
|Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filter and vacuum the house at least twice a week.|
|Live in a clean, dust-free environment|
|Keep the house ventilated, open, with sunlight and free of humidity|
|Use covers for mattresses and pillows and wash them regularly.|
|Clean and brush pets frequently|
|Avoid sudden temperature changes|
|Take moderate exercise|
|Prefer odorless products or those with mild flavors|