What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs called bronchial tubes. Currently 26 million Americans have asthma and is the most common illness in children.

If you have asthma your airways are always inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms. This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs. Swollen airways cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness.

For some asthma sufferers, timing of these symptoms is closely related to physical activity. For others, even healthy people can develop asthma symptoms only when exercising. This is called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Staying active is an important way to stay healthy, so asthma shouldn’t keep you from exercising. Kenneth Pinna, MD can his patient’s develop a management plan to keep asthma symptoms under control before, during and after physical activity.

Childhood asthma impacts millions of children. The majority of children who develop asthma do so before the age of five. This asthma can be a troubling asthma for many families. Children have smaller airways than adults resulting in especially serious asthma symptoms. Children with asthma may experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially early in the morning or at night. When asthma symptoms become worse than usual, or uncontrolled, it is called an asthma attack.

There is no cure for asthma, but once the triggers are properly diagnosed and a treatment plan is in place you will be able to manage your condition, and your quality of life will improve. Triggers that can initiate an asthma attack include allergens such as pollen, dust, animal dander, drugs and food additives, as well as viral respiratory infections and physical exertion.

People with a family history of allergies or asthma are more prone to developing asthma. Many asthma sufferers also have allergies. This is called allergic asthma. By doing allergy testing, Kenneth Pinna, MD can further develop an expanded treatment plan.

Who Gets Allergies?

40-60 million Americans suffer from allergies. Allergies are most common in children and they can appear at any time and any age. There are several factors that that determine a person’s susceptibility to allergies, such as hereditary factors. If a parent has allergies, there is a 25-40% change a child will also have allergies. However, there is no specific gene that has been identified in humans.

Allergies that start in childhood can improve as one gets older. Allergies can also be developed as one gets older. Allergies can also disappear and return years later as a person’s chemistry changes.

Some people are prone to airborne allergens which can cause something known allergic rhinitis. This type occurs in about 15% to 20% of Americans. It typically develops by 10 years of age and reaches its peak in the early 20’s, with symptoms often disappearing between the ages of 40 and 60.

Underlying immune disorders can also contribute on how severe allergies can be. Individuals with a weak immune system have a higher chance at developing more severe allergies or increasing chances of becoming allergic to certain allergens. Weak immune systems are problematic due to the body being unable to defend or repair itself efficiently.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Allergies?

  • Sneezing or nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose and/or throat, and/or ears
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Frequent throat clearing, hoarseness, coughing or wheezing
  • Fatigue, Eczema, itchy skin, rash
  • Upset stomach, abdominal pain
  • Headache, ear ache,  facial pain or swelling
  • Itchy eyes, allergic conjunctivitis, or pink eye
  • Decrease concentration, focus, decision making
  • Irritability, Sleeplessness

The type and severity of allergy symptoms vary from allergy to allergy and child to child. Symptoms can range from minor or major seasonal annoyances (for example, from pollen or certain molds) to year-round problems (from allergens like dust mites or food).

These symptoms are often accompanied by itchy, watery, and/or red eyes, which is called allergic conjunctivitis. (When dark circles are present around the eyes, it’s called allergic “shiners”). Those who react to airborne allergens usually have allergic rhinitis and/or allergic conjunctivitis. If a person has these symptoms, as well as wheezing and shortness of breath, the allergy may have progressed to become asthma.

What are Some Common Allergens?

  • Seasonal: These are mainly outdoor allergens and include pollens from grasses, trees and weeds, and also some molds.
  • Perennial: These are usually indoor allergens, and cause symptoms all year round. The commonest is the house dust mite. These reside in nests such as carpets, bedding and upholstered furniture. House dust mites proliferate in humid homes. They are the commonest triggers for perennial rhinitis and allergic asthma. Other perennial allergens include domestic pets, especially cats. The actual allergen is a protein component of dander, the shed scales of the skin. The same allergens are also found in the animal’s saliva and urine. Hair on fur can also collect other allergens, such as pollens, molds and dust mites.
  • Drugs: Aspirin & other anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics like penicillin account for most of the allergic reactions due to drugs.
  • Insects: Each year about 40 people die in the USA from Anaphylaxis to insect (bee, wasp & fire ants venom) sting.
  • Latex: Over the last 15 years immediate hypersensitivity (IgE-mediated allergy) to latex has been increasingly recognized as a rapidly emerging public health problem. Latex is widely used in the manufacture of medical devices (gloves, catheters, anaesthetic masks, and dental dams) as well as a variety of everyday articles. Reactions from latex range from annoying skin rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
  • Food Allergens: Only about six foods account for more than 90% of all confirmed food allergies. These are milk, eggs, peanut & other nuts, wheat, soy and fish.

When Do Allergies Occur?

An allergy may occur at any time after the first exposure to an allergen. This may be eaten, breathed in or enter the body through the skin. It is often very helpful if you can think back in the year before allergy started to see if you can identify the trigger event, or foods you recently ate, or exposures to new environmental factors.

Allergies are much more common after:

  • A “trigger event” such as an infection.
  • Massive exposure to chemicals or radiation
  • Consumption of a food
  • Changes in weather
  • Seasonal or Perennial
  • New landscaping
  • Geographical moves
  • Cosmetics
  • New Jewelry
  • Metal exposure
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Laundry detergents
  • Animals
  • Occupational exposure

Is Allergy Inherited?

This type of allergy is called atopy. There are three classic kinds of atopy: 

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema), 
  • Hay fever(seasonal allergic rhinitis) and 
  • Allergic asthma

Most allergy sufferers are atopic. Atopy means that the individual has a genetic tendency to develop allergies. In most developed countries up to 40% of the population will be atopic. Only one-half of them will develop allergic symptoms. Atopic individuals are genetically prone to manufacture antibodies of the IgE class. These IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies tend to react against allergens present in the environment (pollen, cat dander, molds, house dust mite). Atopy is easily diagnosed in an individual who has a personal or immediate family history of allergies and on doing skin prick test they react to one or more of the common environmental allergens.

These individuals with the genetic predisposition must be exposed to the allergen either in their environment or in their diet. So allergy is partly inherited and partly environmental. If one of your parents has a respiratory allergy, you have a 30 to 50 percent chance of developing one, though not necessarily the same allergy. If both of your parents have respiratory allergies, the risk that you will develop an allergy goes up to 80%.