If you have recently been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, you are at an increased risk of developing adult-onset asthma. In fact, your risk of developing asthma as an adult increased from 3 to more than 5 times when you developed allergic rhinitis. Due to this, it is crucial for you to keep your allergic rhinitis under control and to know the symptoms of asthma. Here's what you need to know.
Understand the Connection
When exposed to an allergen, your body has an immunoglobin-E-antibodies (IgE) response. IgE mediates mast cells and basophils, which are the inflammatory cells that produce mediators such as histamine, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and tryptase. These mediators are responsible for the allergic reaction you experience when your eyes water, you sneeze, and your nose runs and becomes stuffy.
At the same time, mast cells cause an increase in endothelial cells, which increases the production of the adhesion component of eosinophils, basophils, and lymphocytes. This causes proteinase to be activated in endothelial cells, which drowns the airways with a release of cytokines and proteases. This is what causes bronchorestriction. Each time this occurs, the bronchorestriction worsens, eventually to the point that asthma occurs.
Bronchorestriction in asthma prevents air from escaping the lungs, which makes it difficult for asthmatics to take in more air. An asthma attack feels like you are out of breath or you can't catch your breath, but it's due to no more air being allowed into the lungs because the lungs have air trapped in them. Because of the connection between allergic rhinitis and asthma, it is important to prevent the inflammatory cells from producing an allergic reaction to reduce your risks of developing asthma.
Deal with Allergens
You'll need to undergo testing to determine what you are allergic to. This can be done through skin-prick testing, in which an allergen is placed under your skin or by blood tests to measure the IgE reactions to various allergens. Your primary care physician can refer you to an allergist to have these tests done. It's important that you do not take any allergy medication prior to the tests for the best results.
Once you know what things you are allergic to, you'll need to try to avoid exposure to them. This may mean making lifestyle changes, such as limiting your exposure to the outdoors when the ragweed count is high if you are allergic to ragweed. If you are allergic to dust, you'll need to keep a meticulous home to prevent dust accumulation.
Unfortunately, sometimes allergens cannot be avoided, which is why medication is important in preventing allergic symptoms of allergic rhinitis, therefore reducing the risk of developing adult-onset asthma. Most over-the-counter allergy medication are only antihistamines, which means that they only prevent the production of histamine. However, as you learned above, histamine isn't the only inflammatory cell that is activated in an allergic reaction.
You'll need to take a preventive medication that prevents the other inflammatory cells from also activating, such as fluticasone nasal spray. Also, it may be a good idea to ask your allergist about immunotherapy, which is a treatment plan using sublingual medication or allergy shots that may help your body get used to exposure to an allergen.
In addition to prevention medication, there may be times when rescue medication is necessary, which can include corticosteroids and decongestants. Rescue medication is typically prescribed in short courses. When you see your primary care physician or allergist for rescue medication, be sure to tell them if you have noticed any warning signs of the onset of asthma, such as tightness in your chest, coughing, and/or wheezing.