Allergies and asthma - What causes them and how are they linked?
Contrary to popular belief, allergies and asthma are not completely different things. In fact, they are more closely linked than most people believe. If your child suffers from asthma and allergies, here are some tips on how you can help them.
Earlier this month, we attended a talk by Dr. Chew Huck Chin, a Consultant Respiratory Physician and Intensivist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. The talk was at KidZania and was on allergic rhinitis and bronchial asthma, along with how it can be prevented and treated.
The talk was part of a series of other talks done in conjunction with KidZania Singapore and Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, to encourage kids and parents to adopt health habits and bring them home.
We’re going to highlight some of the things we learnt from Dr. Chew and hopefully, you will be able to identify the symptoms and get treatment for your child should they suffer from allergies or asthma.
What is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis essentially is the inflammation of the mucous membrane. It happens when you breathe in something that your body is allergic to. This can include anything from dust to cockroaches to mold.
Additionally, we found out that allergic rhinitis can also be genetic. Meaning if you suffer from it, there’s a higher chance your child will suffer from it too.
Seems like almost anything puts you and your family at risk of allergic rhinitis, so how can one avoid and/or treat it?
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you feel you or your child might be suffering from allergic rhinitis, you should head to a doctor to determine what exactly are your allergens. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and he will probably suggest you go for a skin prick test.
This is where a small amount of the substance is pricked into your skin. Doctors are able to determine what your allergens are by observing how your skin reacts to the different substances. You are then able to verify and steer clear of the things that cause your allergy symptoms to act up.
Alternatively, you might want to ask your doctor about allergy immunotherapy. Allergy immunotherapy helps to build your immune system and allows it to better tackle allergens as opposed to you simply avoiding them.
A major plus point being that allergen immunotherapy doesn't involve needles, instead, it comes in the form of a spray or a tablet. This is great for kids who have a fear of needles and doctors as they won’t have to head to the doctor to have the therapy done - treatment can be administered at home by a parent.
Keep reading to find out about bronchial asthma and it's methods of treatment!
What is bronchial asthma?
Bronchial asthma is defined as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. These are brought about by airway inflammation and airway hyper-responsiveness which result in airflow obstruction.
In Singapore, 1 in 5 children are affected by bronchial asthma. Meaning that you should definitely pay attention and seek treatment if you suspect you child suffers from it.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Having mentioned that 1 in 5 Singaporean children suffer from bronchial asthma, do not hesitate to consult your family doctor should you detect symptoms in your own children.
Similar to allergic rhinitis, genetics are an influencing factor when it comes to the probability of your child suffering from asthma.
Tobacco smoke, outdoor pollution, and diet are all factors that could influence or agitate the symptoms of a child who suffers from asthma. It has been found that the Western diet predisposes asthma. While this means us Asians are slightly safer, it is not to say that we will not be affected.
Ventolin, a common reliever for asthma
Treatment for bronchial asthma is available in two forms, controllers and relievers. Controllers are taken daily as a means of stabilizing and controlling the symptoms and relievers are used when needed to subdue an attack.
Head on to the next page for the link and similarities between asthma and allergies!
Similarities & Links
As we have already mentioned, allergic rhinitis and bronchial asthma are in fact very similar. For someone who has asthma, they possess hyper-responsive airways, meaning that they are more likely to respond to allergens.
These allergens may set off the symptoms of asthma, such as coughing fits, sneezing, or wheezing. At which point, a reliever might be necessary to subdue the attack and aid the patient in breathing normally again.
Managing your allergies and asthma
In order to manage your asthma and allergies, you will first need to determine the causes for it - in other words, you need to detect what your specific allergens are.
You may already suspect what some of you or your child’s allergens are simply by the reaction observed whenever exposed to or in contact with a particular substance. You should then consult your doctor to confirm these allergies.
At which point, you are able to steer clear of these allergens - be it food or environmental allergens.
Dust mites are a common allergen here in Singapore, meaning that you should aim to keep the house clean and dust free. Stuffed toys are major dust-collectors, so try to minimise the number that your child has should they show symptoms of allergic rhinitis when in contact with dust.
Dust mites, the most common allergen here in Singapore
Change the bedsheets bi-weekly and use HEPA filter bags for your vacuum (specially designed bags that trap dust mites). Another effective method is to mop frequently, as mites cannot escape a wet rag the same way they might escape a regular vacuum filter bag.
Keeping a clean home and space will ease your child’s symptoms of allergic rhinitis and bronchial asthma as it reduces their chances of exposure to one of the most common allergens here in Singapore.
Similarly, with food allergens, once they have been detected steer clear of consumption of these substances to avoid allergic reactions!
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