You are here

Q: 
What's the difference between allergies and asthma?
A: 
Allergies are an immune system response, or oversensitivity, to an environmental "trigger" (known as an allergen), such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander or certain foods, to name a few. Signs of an allergic reaction include frequent or regularly recurring itchy eyes, nose, mouth or ears, sneezing, a runny nose, dry skin or hives, a productive cough, wheezing or tightness in your chest. Allergies can trigger an asthma attack; however, asthma is present in some people without allergies.

Asthma involves inflammation of the lungs that constricts the muscles around your airways, resulting in chest wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. The bronchial tubes tighten and air flow is reduced as the lungs expand. While allergens provoke most asthma attacks, other triggers include smoke, cold or humid air, strong odors, and strenuous exercise.

Allergies and asthma are treatable and the first step is proper diagnosis to pinpoint the source of your symptoms. An allergist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.