Allergic asthma is a breathing condition where the airways you breathe through tighten when you inhale an allergen. Common allergens include pollen, dander and mold spores. This type of asthma is very common in both children and adults. Symptoms of allergic asthma can include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes and a rash.
For many people, allergies play a large part in their life. Allergies can affect what you eat, products you use, and even the way you breathe. When allergies combine with a breathing condition called asthma, it’s called allergic asthma. A type of asthma, allergic asthma is a condition where your airways tighten when you breathe in an allergen. This can be something in the air — often pollen, dander or mold spores. Allergens are also called triggers because they set off your asthma. Things that could cause you to have a reaction, might not affect other people.
When you have allergies your body creates a response to something it thinks is a threat — the allergen. It fires up all of its defenses to try and fight off danger. This is done by your immune system. Your immune system typically works to protect you from disease. When your immune system thinks that there’s danger, it releases a chemical called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This substance is meant to fight back and protect your body. However, high amounts of IgE can cause your airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe.
Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes your airways to:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Many people with asthma actually have allergic asthma. It’s the most common type of asthma. In the United States, about 25 million people have asthma. Out of that group, approximately 60% have asthma that’s caused by allergies.
The cause of asthma isn’t known. However, for those with allergic asthma, the reason symptoms start is related to allergens. This is the main difference between allergic asthma and other types of asthma — allergens are inhaled and trigger asthma symptoms. When you experience severe asthma symptoms, it’s called an asthma attack.
Allergens can be found all around you. These can be in your indoor and outdoor environments. When you have allergic asthma, inhaling these allergens can set off (trigger) your symptoms. It’s important to know what can trigger your asthma so that you can control your condition.
Possible allergens that can trigger allergic asthma can include:
Some people suffer from seasonal allergies. These are allergies that flare up at a certain time of year. This is often connected to spring because of the blooming of many plants. During this time of year, there is more pollen in the air than other seasons (fall or winter).
If you have allergic asthma, you may have many of the same symptoms you would experience with other types of asthma. These symptoms can include:
These symptoms can be very intense during an asthma attack. Make sure you have a treatment plan in place if you have severe asthma symptoms — this plan often includes an inhaler (sometimes referred to as a rescue inhaler).
You can also experience symptoms more closely related to allergies. These are usually less intense than asthma symptoms and can happen when you’re exposed to an allergen. These symptoms can include:
When you have an asthma attack that’s triggered by your allergies, it is a severe flair up of your asthma symptoms. During an asthma attack, your airways will tighten, making it difficult to breathe. You may also feel chest pressure, wheeze and cough. The symptoms of an allergic asthma attack are the same as an asthma attack caused by something else. The difference between the two is the cause of the asthma attack. When you experience severe asthma symptoms after breathing in an allergen, this is typically allergic asthma.
There are several tests that your healthcare provider can do to diagnose allergic asthma. To pinpoint allergies, your provider may do a blood test or a skin test. In these tests, your provider is looking for the effect of the allergens on your body. For a skin test, possible allergens may be applied to small areas of your skin to see how you react to each one. This can be uncomfortable, but it will show your provider what might be causing the reaction.
Your healthcare provider may also do a few tests to diagnose your asthma. These tests are used to make sure that it’s asthma that’s causing your symptoms and no other medical condition. Tests to diagnose asthma can include:
If you have allergic asthma, your symptoms are typically triggers by something you breathe in. Determining what allergen triggered your symptoms is another part of the diagnosis process for allergic asthma. Try to keep a journal or notes of what happened when you experienced asthma symptoms. If you were outside by freshly cut grass, it could be a pollen allergy. If you were petting a dog, it could be pet dander. Figuring out what you inhaled when your symptoms started can help your provider create a plan to control your allergic asthma.
The main goal of treating allergic asthma is to control the condition. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop ways to manage allergic asthma. Some things your provider may work with you on include:
While asthma itself can’t be prevented, you can reduce your risk of an allergic asthma attack by knowing your triggers and controlling your environment. This might mean not cutting the grass if you know that pollen is trigger for your asthma or avoiding places with a lot of animals if dander is a trigger for you.
There isn’t a cure for allergic asthma. However, you can control your symptoms and take care to control your environment — avoiding an asthma attack. Your allergic asthma can be worse at certain times during the year. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your symptoms and the best medications to control your asthma. Allergic asthma is very common and you can live a normal life with this condition.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Allergic asthma is a very common condition that many people experience throughout their lives. Though there isn’t a cure for this type of asthma, it can be controlled. You can control you condition by learning about your triggers and taking steps to avoid a reaction. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your environment and avoid asthma attacks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2020.
Learn more about our editorial process.