Asthma and Allergies

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 18 October 2021

Asthma and Allergies

Asthma and allergies sometimes coexist. Asthma is a condition affecting the bronchial tubes (windpipes of the lungs), which transport oxygen into and out of the lungs. Asthma may take on a number of forms.

Allergic asthma is a form of asthma brought about by an allergic reaction (for example, pollen or mould spores).

The nose and windpipe, as well as the bronchial channels, direct air into the lungs. Alveoli, small air sacs at the end of the bronchial airways, carry fresh air (oxygen) to the blood. Stale air (carbon dioxide) is often collected in the air sacs and exhaled out of the body. The bands of muscle that circle the airways contract during regular breathing, allowing air to flow easily. However, there are three key changes that prevent air from flowing easily through the airways during an asthma episode or “attack":

  • Bronchospasm happens as the bands of muscle that circle the airways tighten, allowing them to narrow.
  • The lining of the airways swells up and becomes inflamed.
  • The mucus formed by the cells that line the airways becomes thicker than usual.

The lungs' ability to transport oxygen in and out is impaired by the compressed airway. As a consequence, asthmatics think they aren't getting sufficient oxygen. Both of these changes make it difficult to breathe.

Common Symptoms

Asthma symptoms appear when the three changes described above occur in the airways. Some individuals may go months without experiencing an asthma attack, and others feel symptoms on a regular basis. Asthma signs include the following:

  • Coughing – more at night and early mornings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness or chest pain or chest pressure

Not everybody who suffers from asthma feels the same symptoms in the same way. You might not experience any of these asthma symptoms at the same time, or you might experience various symptoms at different times. Symptoms can differ from one asthma attack to the next. During one asthma attack, symptoms may be minor, and during another, they may be serious.

Mild asthma symptoms are much more common. The airways typically open up in a few minutes to a few hours. Severe episodes are rarer, but they persist longer and necessitate emergency medical attention. To help avoid serious attacks and maintain asthma under control, it's crucial to identify and manage even minor symptoms.

A reaction to some offending allergy-causing agent will exacerbate asthma symptoms if you have allergies and asthma.

Asthma Attack Warning Signs

Early warning indicators of asthma appear before the more obvious effects which are the only signs that a person's asthma is getting worse. The below are early warning signs and effects of an asthma attack:

  • Frequent cough, especially at night
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or tired – especially when doing activities like exercise
  • Wheezing
  • Changes in peak expiratory flow – a measure of how fast air comes out of the lungs when you exhale forcefully into a peak flow tube
  • Signs of upper respiratory infections or allergies
  • Difficulty sleeping

To avoid a serious asthma episode, get help as soon as possible if you experience either of these asthma symptoms.

Who Gets Asthma?

Asthma can affect anyone, but commonly runs in families. It is a global non-communicable disease, affecting nearly 400 million people worldwide.


What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is a condition in the lungs caused by a variety of causes. The airways of anyone with asthma are extremely vulnerable, and they respond to a variety of “triggers." Asthma effects are often caused when getting into contact with these triggers.

Asthma causes come in a variety of forms. Each person's reaction is unique, and it changes with time. Some may have a lot of triggers, and others don't have any that they can name. Avoiding stimuli as far as possible is one of the most critical components of asthma management.

The following are some of the more common asthma triggers:

  • Allergens: substances that trigger allergic reactions including – pollen, pet dander, mold spores, food, dust mites, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts
  • Tobacco smoke – more common in families with a family member who smokes
  • Infections: colds, flu, sinus infections
  • Exercise*
  • Weather: cold air or general changes in surrounding temperature
  • Air pollution
  • Dust
  • Strong odours from chemical products
  • Stress: anxiety, crying, shouting, laughing too hard
  • Medication: aspirin, ibuprofen, and beta blocker drugs used to treat conditions including high blood pressure, migraines, or glaucoma

*Note: Although exercise can aggravate asthma, it should not be avoided. Even during an asthma episode, children (and adults) should exercise and have a clear treatment plan.


Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, February 17). Allergies and asthma: They often occur together. Retrieved from
  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI): “An Unwelcome Return: 10 Tips to Ease Your Spring Allergy Symptoms.” “Asthma Statistics.” “Tips to Remember: Outdoor Allergens.”
  4. Cinquair. Prescribing Information.

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