What is allergy-related asthma?

Updated: Oct 07, 2019
  • Author: John J Oppenheimer, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Kaliner, MD  more...
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Environmental exposure in sensitized individuals is a major inducer of airway inflammation, which is a hallmark finding in the asthmatic lung. Although triggers induce inflammation through different pathways, the resulting effects all lead to increased bronchial reactivity.

The importance of allergy in asthma has been well established. For example, exposure to dust mites in the first year of life is associated with later development of asthma and, possibly, atopy. Mite and cockroach antigens are common, and exposure and sensitization have been shown to increase asthma morbidity.

Allergies trigger asthma attacks in 60-90% of children and in 50% of adults. Approximately 75-85% of patients with asthma have positive (immediate) skin test results. In children, this sensitization is associated with disease activity.

Although most people with asthma have aeroallergen-induced symptoms, some individuals manifest symptoms with nonallergic triggers. About 3-10% of people with asthma are sensitive to NSAIDs. Approximately 5-10% of people with asthma have occupation- or industry-induced airway disease. Many individuals develop symptoms after viral respiratory tract infections.

Allergen avoidance and other environmental control efforts are feasible and effective. Symptoms, pulmonary function test findings, and airway hyperreactivity (AHR) improve with avoidance of environmental allergens. Removing even 1 of many allergens can result in clinical improvement. However, patients frequently are not adherent with such measures.

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