The link between allergy and asthma

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An allergy is the cause of asthma in about 80% of cases. Learn about the link between allergy and asthma and how allergies may have an impact on quality of life.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airway that causes symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Asthma can be triggered by an infection or air pollution, but in most cases asthma is caused by allergens such as pollen, house dust mites and animal dander.

Allergy (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most important predictors of asthma development and control. An allergic reaction and asthma attack is essentially the same, except from the location. Since the upper and lower airways are connected, inflammation can spread from the nose (allergic reaction) into the lungs (asthmatic attack).

Constant exposure to allergens may cause chronic lung inflammation, which will worsen asthma symptoms over time. The longer asthma is left untreated, the more severe it becomes, so it’s important to diagnose allergic rhinitis and asthma as early as possible and begin treatment.

What is ‘the allergic march’?
Children with one form of allergy can often go on to develop other forms of allergy during their childhood. For instance, children with food allergies at a very young age may develop respiratory allergies as they grow older. This progression of allergic diseases is known as ‘the allergic march’. The word ‘march’ suggests that children pass through from one stage of allergy to another.

Important facts

  • Asthma and allergic rhinitis very frequently co-exist in the same person: they are together called respiratory allergy
  • Allergic rhinitis increases by 40% the chance of dropping a grade in summer examinations, while adding a sedating drug may further increase it to 70%


The impact of allergies
Living with one or more allergic diseases can impact on your quality of life. In children and young people, allergies may affect their sleep, and impair learning, memory and behaviour. Sleepiness and mood swings often lead children to be isolated, perform less at school and even get bullied. In adults, allergic diseases may lead to increased sick days, reduced work productivity and poor concentration.

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