Allergic Asthma: Symptoms And Treatment
Ashley A. Sullivan, MSN FNPStudent, Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, CaRN, California Pacific Medical Center
Natalya M. Kushnir, MDDirector, Allergy and immunology Clinic of East BayBerkeley, CA
H. Henry Li, MD, PhDFAAAAI, FACAAIInstitute for Asthma and AllergyWheaton and Chevy Chase Maryland
Michael A. Kaliner, MD FAAAAIMedical Director, Institute for Asthma and AllergyChevy Chase and Wheaton, MarylandProfessor of Medicine, George Washington University School of MedicineWashington DC
Inflammation Of The Airways
When the body detects an allergen, it tries to reject it by producing antibodies and chemicals, such as histamine. Histamine causes the airways to become inflamed and constricted, and it also causes the body to produce mucus to help expel the allergen.
As a result, the airways become narrower. When a person breathes through narrowed airways, the air is forced through a smaller-than-usual space, and a whistling sound can result. This sound is wheezing.
Some causes of wheezing result in short-lived symptoms. Others can cause symptoms that are more serious or longer lasting.
What Is A Food Allergy
A food allergy is when your immune system overacts to a specific protein found in that food. An allergic reaction to a particular food can present itself in many forms such as hives or red itchy skin, a stuffy or itchy nose, sneezing and watery eyes, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, angioedema or swelling. In some cases a severe reaction occurs called anaphylaxis. Signs of a severe reaction include: hoarseness, a lump in the throat, throat tightening, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and tingling in the hands, feet, lips and scalp. Sometimes symptoms can occur when coming in contact with a minimal amount of food. It is common for people to mistake symptoms of food intolerance with food allergies. The main difference being that when you are allergic to a food, the allergen triggers a reaction in the immune system, which can be life-threatening.
Being allergic to a food may also mean being allergic to a similar protein found in other elements. This is known as cross-reactivity. Cross-reactivity is when the immune system thinks a protein is closely linked to another. An example is if someone is allergic to ragweed, they may also have a reaction to bananas and melons.
It can be common for food allergies to first be diagnosed in young children. However, they may also appear in older children and adults. It is possible for some children to outgrow a food allergy but it is also possible for adults to develop a food allergy later in life.
- Cows Milk
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Symptoms Of Chest Tightness
Chest tightness on its own is a symptom of another condition. To help identify the cause of chest tightness, its important to pay attention to any accompanying symptoms. Other symptoms that may be present along with tightness in chest include cough, flared nostrils, wheezing, abdominal pain, feeling as if food is stuck in your chest, food regurgitation, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, racing thoughts, stress, and sweating.
Serious symptoms associated with chest tightness that indicate issues with the heart include change in ones level of consciousness, chest pain that spreads to the arms, back, or neck, difficulty breathing, bluish color of skin or nails, coughing up yellow phlegm, pressure or cramping in the chest, severe dizziness or disorientation, severe heart palpitations, and chest tightness that is sudden and accompanied by shortness of breath.
Tightness in chest can be a scary experience, especially because its so closely associated with your heart. If lifestyle habits arent the cause for your pain, you will want to have yourself checked out in order to prevent any complications.
Ive Had Chest Tightness Lately Im Becoming Concerned That My Allergies Are Flaring Up Or I Have Asthma How Can I Tell The Difference Between Allergies Asthma And Anxiety
Chest tightness and shortness of breath can be caused by many reasons, including anxiety, stress, being out of shape, allergies, and other medical conditions, such as asthma. It can be difficult to tell the difference by yourself.
In this case, its best to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Your doctor can assess your symptom-set and request medical testing, if necessary, to see if there is a medical cause for your symptoms. If your doctor finds a medical cause, following your doctors recommendation can help alleviate your symptoms.
We also want to keep in mind that medical problems can develop at any time, especially as we age, so we dont want to chalk everything up to anxiety and stress.
This is why we recommend discussing all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms with your doctor to ensure all medical possibilities are ruled out.
If your doctor attributes your symptoms solely to stress, including anxiety-caused stress, you can focus on your anxiety disorder recovery work, and in time, your symptoms should subside.
If your doctor attributes your symptoms to asthma, following the recommended treatment plan can alleviate your chest tightness symptoms.
If you have asthma, it neednt be a source of concern or despair. Many people have asthma and live normal lives.
If your symptoms are allergy-related, following your doctors advice can alleviate them.
So again, discuss your symptoms with your doctor and proceed based on the diagnosis.
Are There Conventional Medicines To Help Me
Conventional medicines can be used to treat seasonal allergies symptoms.
In general, doctors are likely to advise anti-histamines to combat the excess release of histamine in the body. Anti-histamines can be bought over-the-counter, and can be taken as required to tackle symptoms or as a preventative measure. Some anti-histamines cause drowsiness and so you may need to be careful when driving or using machinery.
In extreme cases and for quick but short-term relief, your doctor may suggest a course of steroids. It is inadvisable to use steroid treatment for more than ten days, as unpleasant side-effects may be seen with long-term usage.
Other forms of treatment that may be recommended include cromoglycate tablets or sprays. They work by reducing the tendency of your immune system to react to pollen.
Chest Tightness In Asthma Symptoms
When you have chest tightness due to your asthma, you may feel like you can’t easily push air in and out of your chest. With asthma, mild chest tightness can be present all or most of the time, but it may worsen in response to asthma triggers and in the hours or minutes before an asthma exacerbation.
Not all people who have asthma experience chest tightness. But there is a type of asthma described as chest tightness variant asthma in which this symptom is especially frequent.
Symptoms of chest tightness include:
- A feeling that your chest is constricted, as if there’s a band around it
- A sense that you’re trying to push against your chest from the inside as you breathe
- A struggle to fully exhale
- Difficulty inhaling
When the feeling of chest tightness triggers anxiety, your sense of not being able to move air through your lungs can worsen.
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An Introduction To Tight Chests And Seasonal Allergies
People afflicted by asthma may also be prone to seasonal allergies. In fact asthma and seasonal allergies are often grouped together and termed atopy by doctors. This is because the individual has an increased tendency to develop allergies and typical symptoms of chest tightness and wheezing often occur in both conditions. Atopic individuals can also be prone to skin allergies or eczema.
What Can You Do
The Lung Institute provides a great list of ways to confront your chest tightness from asthma. It resonates with my practice as well. Here are some actions you can take when you feel the tightness coming on:2
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Explaining Your Symptoms To Your Gp
Its a good idea to start a diary of your symptoms before speaking to your GP. Taking note of when symptoms flare-up may help you to understand your triggers. This diary will then help your GP to understand and properly assess your condition. You could also try filming your symptoms if they are hard to describe.
There are several different tests for asthma – so your GP wont be able to diagnose you straightaway. Our advice on diagnosing asthma explains this process in more detail.
Tightness In Chest And Throat What Could It Be
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter. This allows the stomach acid and food to move back up from the stomach into the esophagus, thus causes tightness in the throat or chest.
Other Signs and Symptoms
- Chest pain
- Burning sensation within ones chest which may also spread to the throat alongside a sour taste becoming apparent in ones mouth
- Dry cough
- A lump in ones throat
- Regurgitation of food or liquid
Over-the-counter medication antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are often used to control heartburn and other symptoms of GERD. If these prove ineffective after two weeks, then stronger medications such as Baclofen can be prescribed by your doctor. If medication has no overwhelming positive success, then surgery may be required. The procedures usually carried out include lower esophageal sphincter reinforcement surgery, and lower esophageal sphincter strengthening surgery.
Asthma is a disease that inflames the walls of passageways that supply air to the lungs. Inflamed airways are sensitive and complicate breathing. Common asthma symptoms include breathing problems, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in chest and throat.
Other Signs and Symptoms
3. Heart Failure
Signs and Symptoms
The following symptoms often accompany heart failure:
- Swollen abdomen or liver
Other Signs and Symptoms
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Allergies & Chest Congestion Symptoms
Allergies affect each person differently and are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to a substance, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 1. The immune system recognizes a relatively harmless substance as a potentially dangerous substance and releases certain chemicals to fight it off. These chemicals cause common allergy symptoms such as nasal discharge, watery eyes and asthma. Chest congestion from allergies is the result of allergy-induced asthma or the effects of postnasal drip. Talk to a doctor to determine the cause of any chest congestion related to allergies.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Learn How To Manage Symptoms
The good news is that todays treatments for asthma and allergies mainly medication and inhalers are very effective.
Theyre relatively easy to use and have minimal side effects, Dr. Purcell says. When symptoms are more severe or do not respond to other measures, allergy shots is very effective.
One option that should not be on the table is letting allergic asthma ruin your quality of life. The goal is to manage your condition so that it never limits the activities you love because they trigger an allergic reaction, he says.
Working with your doctor will help you find a treatment plan that works for you.
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Causes Of Tightness In Chest
There are many different causes associated with tightness in chest:
Angina: This is the pain emanating from the heart due to lack of healthy blood flow in the blood vessels lined with fat. As a result, blood gets stuck, causing the heart to overwork and triggering the pain and chest tightness.
Indigestion: When food is not well digested, it will travel upward into the esophagus. Indigestion can be a result of a poor diet, stress, or smoking and drinking alcohol.
Infection of the gallbladder: Infection of the gallbladder can result in tightness of chest. The good news is, it can be easily treated. The bad news is, many people overlook the symptoms of gallbladder infections, delaying the diagnosis and treatment.
Pleurisy: This is a type of lung infection which causes pain while breathing or coughing. Pleurisy is not a very common condition, but it is still a viable cause of tightness in chest.
Myocardial infarction : One of the first symptoms a person may experience when having a heart attack is tightness in chest. Its important that a heart attack is treated immediately or else it can have deadly outcomes.
Costochondritis: Joints located in the chest protect the organs, but when they become inflamed they can lead to tightness in chest. This type of pain typically feels like stabbing. Although not threatening, you should still see your doctor about reducing the inflammation.
Hepatitis: Hepatitis is a type of liver disease, but it can result in chest pains and tightness.
What Causes Shortness Of Breath
Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is generally an indicator of heart or lung problems, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Cardiac-induced shortness of breath usually happens when your heart cant properly fill up with blood and pump it to the rest of your body, a process that keeps things running smoothly, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This creates pressure in the blood vessels around the lungs, causing shortness of breath.1
Pulmonary shortness of breath happens in two ways, Tania Elliott, MD, an immunologist and clinical instructor in the department of medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, tells SELF. One is youre so congested that you dont breathe in enough air through your nasal passages, she says. As a result, your lungs dont get enough oxygen.
The other is due to bronchospasm, which happens when the muscles lining the airways in the lungs spasm and constrict, Dr. Elliott says. People can have bronchospasms for many reasons, including asthma.
If you find yourself short of breath and also wheezing or coughing, that may be caused by asthma, John Oppenheimer, MD, a physician at Atlantic Medical Group in New Jersey and a clinical professor of medicine at Rutgers University, tells SELF. Asthma can flare up for numerous reasons, such as exercise or exposure to an allergen.
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How You Can Tell If You Are Suffering From Anxiety
The easiest way to determine if you are suffering from anxiety-induced chest tightness is by ruling out any cardiac or lung-related disease. Only a physician can rule these out completely.
A few signs can be helpful in determining if your chest tightness is cardiac-related. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. So, when in doubt, please visit your primary care physician. Generally, the following is more likely to be true of anxiety-related chest tightness and/or pressure:
- It is less likely to radiate towards the back, arms, or shoulders.
- It is more likely to occur with other anxiety symptoms.
- It tends to last for less than 10 minutes.
Again, having chest pain that abides by these suggestions does not rule out any cardiac or pulmonary causes. Also, women, diabetics, and the elderly often present with chest pain that is atypical of traditional cardiac chest tightness. So, if you belong to one of these groups and have new-onset chest pressure and/or tightness, it is best to see a physician first.
Anxiety attacks have a peak time, and that tends to be when the chest pressure is at its worst. Cardiac chest pressure, on the other hand, is more likely to last longer than 15 minutes, radiate, not be relieved with the resolution of anxiety, and be associated with shortness of breath etc.
When Are You Most Vulnerable To Shortness Of Breath Allergies
During hot summer days, airborne allergies may become dangerous. High pollen counts indicate that there are tons of allergens into the air that can enter into your home and cause you to sneeze, itch and have difficulty breathing. If you have asthma or allergies that cause shortness of breath when you exercise, its even more important to protect yourself by making precautions to avoid allergens, as purifying the air that you breathe.
An allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can affect more than one part of the body and have a long list of reactions, including obstruction of your airways and make it difficult to breathe. Typically, insect bites, food allergies and medications are the allergies that cause anaphylactic reaction. However, you can decrease the amount of dust, pollen and dander from your home to prevent your immune system from going into overdrive and releasing histamines and other compounds responsible for respiratory distress.
If you value your gym time, consider not leaving the house and working out at home when your allergies are at their worst. That way you can be more attentive to your symptoms and also use an air purifier in your home gym to avoid shortness of breath and other severe allergic reactions.
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What Causes Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
There are more than 300 known allergens that, when inhaled as a fine dust, can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Some breathing problems have names based on where the allergen comes from:
- Farmers lung. Seen in farmers and cattle workers, this condition is caused by inhaling mold that grows on hay, straw, and grain.
- Bird fanciers lung. Also called pigeon breeders disease, this condition is caused by inhaling dust specks from feathers or droppings of many types of birds.
- Humidifier lung. This condition can develop by inhaling a fungus that grows in humidifiers, air conditioners, and heating systems, especially if they are not cleaned regularly.
- Hot tub lung. This condition may develop by inhaling germs found in the water mist coming from indoor hot tubs.