If an asthma attack is triggered by allergies it is called allergic asthma. It is different from asthma that is triggered by exercise, because allergic asthma is caused by allergens.
An Explanation Of Immunotherapy for Allergic Asthma
In sensitive individuals, harmless substances (that is, substances that are not disease-causing pathogens) such as pollen, mold, animal dander, dust, etc. cause an immune response normally reserved for pathogens. This over-reactive immune response involves inflammation, mucus production, and often spasms of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The spasms cause tightening or restriction, making breathing difficult, and mucus production further inhibits breathing. The asthmatic usually coughs up this mucus or phlegm after the attack has passed or when it’s nearly over.
Because allergic asthma is an immune response, immunotherapy is often considered as a viable and effective treatment.
What Is Immunotherapy?
Working on a similar principle as vaccines, immunotherapy involves exposure to a decreased or weakened form of the allergen in order to desensitize the individual. The theory is, if you are regularly exposed to a very tiny amount of a known allergen, your body will become used to it and will no longer overreact in the presence of the allergen.
Usually, immunotherapy is administered in the form of shots or injections. The shots are given under the skin, and the area may become slightly itchy, red, or swollen after the injection. This is temporary, and usually goes away within a few hours. You usually begin with a twice- or once-weekly injection of a very tiny amount of allergen. As you continue the shots, the amount of allergen in the injection is increased. Your tolerance for the substance should also increase.
Recently, oral forms of immunotherapy have become available. These are usually taken sublingually – under the tongue – and come in soft, fast-dissolving tablets or pills. These may become more readily available as time goes on. The principle is the same – the pills contain a small amount of the allergen, and the substance goes into the bloodstream via the mucus membranes of the mouth.
If you have a pretty good idea of what brings on your allergic asthma, and you are fairly certain than exposure to one or more particular things brings on an attack, talk to your doctor about seeing an allergist, or talk to your allergist if you have one. He or she can determine for certain what you’re allergic to through various tests. Then the immunotherapy can be customized to fit your particular allergies.