Asthma is a condition that often arises from allergies. More specifically, the respiratory problems that arise during an asthma attack usually occur because of a reaction to certain allergens, such as dust or specific foods.
Of course, anyone can have allergic reactions without being asthmatic. Conversely, not all asthma attacks are triggered by allergies. Stress, for instance, is a prime example of a non-allergy asthma trigger.
According to Dr. Kimberly A. Loos, a general dental practitioner in San Jose, California, “The dental office can be a common site for asthma attacks… Psychological and physical stress can precipitate an attack.” But asthmatics who dread the mere thought of a visit to the dentist can rest assured. Effective medication and stress management techniques are available in the dentist’s office for coping with stress-induced asthma attacks.
Allergic Reactions to Food and the Severely Asthmatic
Most asthma sufferers are only too aware of the dangers lurking in allergens such as dust mites and animal dander. What is not common knowledge, however, is that food allergens are equally capable of triggering a severe asthma attack, or even causing anaphylaxis.
What complicates diagnosis is the fact that food allergy symptoms do not always develop immediately. Sometimes they become apparent only hours after the exposure.
According to the allergy expert, D.G. Wraith, in the report, Recognition of food allergenic patients and their allergens by the RAST technique and clinical investigation, “Food allergy is a very important cause of asthma, but it is often overlooked. It is important because it may cause severe symptoms and asthma still has a high mortality despite improvements in drug therapy.”
What is Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis, is a severe allergic reaction that affects the entire body. Anaphylaxis results in a sudden drop in blood pressure, possibly a skin rash, stomach upset, and most importantly for asthmatics, severe breathing difficulties. If not treated immediately, anaphylaxis can be fatal. Emergency treatment includes injections of adrenalin (epinephrine). Anyone with severe allergies should always carry an anaphylaxis kit containing epinephrine.
Immunotherapy and Allergy Symptoms
Immunotherapy is often used to reduce allergy symptoms in asthma sufferers. Only an allergist- immunologist or other specialist physician should prescribe the treatment. Also, immunotherapy should be administered only in facilities specifically equipped to deal with anaphylaxis.
Immunotherapy involves a series of injections, each containing minute quantities of substances such as dust mites allergen, pollen, mold spores, animal dander or any other substance to which the patient has tested positive in an allergy skin test. Food allergens are not included in immunotherapy as the effectiveness of their inclusion has not been proven.
Allergy shots are administered once or twice a week, during the build up phase. Once the condition is stabilized (after approximately three to four months), the frequency is reduced to a maintenance level of an injection every two to three weeks. Immunotherapy may continue for several years.
Although still the subject of ongoing research, immunotherapy has been shown to “switch off” the abnormal allergic reactions triggered by allergens.
Most asthmatics respond well to immunotherapy. However, a small percentage fail to respond. In these cases, treatment is discontinued. Occurrences of fatal anaphylaxis as a result of immunotherapy treatment are rare.