Is it Allergies Or Asthma When I Can’t Breathe?

When you have trouble breathing, how do you know if it is asthma or allergies? It is all too easy to assume that if someone is experiencing tightening of the throat or a constriction of the bronchial passages or airway, then it must be some form of asthma.

The advice in this article in no way supersedes that of a physician, but is meant as a first step towards awareness. The following five points will help when trying to deciding whether the breathing difficulties being experienced are due to asthma or to an allergic reaction.

1. Timing–One of the first things that you should consider is when the symptoms occur. If, for example, the breathing difficulty only occurs after exercise, or at stressful times, or after laughing very hard, then the chances are that the condition is asthma based.

However, there are some gray areas where it may be hard to tell. For example, some asthmatics can find the condition triggered by strong odors, such as cleaning agents and detergents. This could easily be confused as being an allergic reaction, and so unless the cause is very obvious, make no further assumptions as to whether it is asthma or an allergies, but check the next four points on this list.

2. Flaky/itchy skin–Check the skin for any flaky or irritated patches. You may not have associated the breathing difficulty with the itchiness of the skin, but the two may very well be twin reactions to a common cause. Eczema is a condition that causes flaky, damaged, and irritated skin. If this occurs at roughly the same as the breathing difficulty it tends to indicate allergies.


3. Nasal Discharge–The body’s main way of getting rid of any foreign body or unwanted irritant is to flush it out, which results in a discharge. This is exactly what happens if you have a cold for example – the body tries to flush out the harmful bacteria by causing your nasal glands to work overtime. With allergies, the body over reacts to a harmless allergen, and this can result in a excess mucous in the nose. If you find your breathing difficulty occurs as a result, this is highly suggestive of an allergic reaction.


4. Discharge from ears–This isn’t always easy to spot because we can’t look in our ears! But if you do notice that you seem to need to clean your ears more frequently, that there is extra wax build up, or even that your hearing is deteriorating slightly, then this can also suggest an allergic reaction. If you notice any discharge from the ears, either one or both, this may be indicative of an allergy, and should be checked immediately by a physician.


5. Watery Eyes–Watery eyes can be the result of your eyes attempt to flush out irritants, or a sticky discharge which may be yellowish in color usually indicating infection. Either of these may be strongly suggestive of the body over reacting to some form of allergen, and is likely to mean that any breathing difficulty you experience is the result of an allergic reaction.

Asthma very rarely occurs in conjunction with other symptoms. The only exception tends to be the fact that many asthmatics have a tendency to suffer from eczema, though this does not usually happen at the same time. Eczema may occur quite independently of any breathing difficulty, and will last for much longer than any allergic reaction would.

Knowing and understanding these different symptoms and whether they indicate asthma or allergies will help you to ensure you get the right treatment for the right condition.