Asthma (allergic asthma or bronchial asthma) is an inflammatory secondary disease which involves hypersensitivity and spasmodic narrowing of the airways. Untreated allergic rhinitis (e.g. pollen allergy) leads to asthma in 30% of people. This is referred to as progression.

Causes and triggers

Allergens are the most common triggers of bronchial asthma. Depending on individual sensitisation, contact with house dust mites, animals, pollen or moulds or consumption of certain foods or medicines leads to an asthmatic reaction with a cough and shortness of breath.

Diagnosis and differential diagnosis

Not every narrowing of the airways is actually asthma. Finding the diagnosis can be quite protracted and demands patience from those concerned. Symptoms lasting throughout the year are indicative of chronic asthma. In seasonal asthma, the asthmatic symptoms are confined to the pollen season. Food and animal allergies can also trigger an asthma attack. The diagnosis is made by a lung specialist (chest physician or pneumologist) or an allergy specialist.

Therapy and treatment

Optimum lung function and a symptom-free life are the ultimate goals of good asthma therapy. First and foremost, contact with the allergen is to be avoided or reduced. Therefore the first imperative is to identify the allergen or the trigger, if possible, to eliminate it and avoid asthma attacks. Further treatment may include individually tailored medicines which open up the airways and inhibit inflammation. It is important that patients have good inhalation technique (please have a look at the videos about different ways to inhalate)

After thorough investigation, specific immunotherapy is often recommended for allergic asthma. It is regarded as a causal treatment. It involves building up an immune response so that, to a large extent, contact with the allergen no longer triggers a reaction.

Tips and tricks

  • Good breathing technique can help to cope with physical exertion and acute shortness of breath better and without anxiety.
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke, industrial gases and perfumes should be avoided, whenever possible.

Facts and figures

The diagnosis "asthma" is usually defined more precisely nowadays. The following distinctions are made:

  • Allergic asthma when a trigger is found.
  • Congenital asthma, e.g. in the case of extremely premature births (lungs not sufficiently matured) or genetic defects.
  • Acquired asthma, in smokers or certain occupational groups (dust lung disease).

In Switzerland 7–15% of all children and 6–7% of adults are affected.
 

Editors: aha! Swiss Allergy Centre in co-operation with the Scientific Advisory Board.

 

aha! Swiss Allergy Centre helps

  • aha!shop: Booklets and factsheets provides detailed information and are available in German, French, Italian.  The booklet "Allergies – simple to explain" and the questionnaire "Do I have an allergy" is available in English
  • Experts on the aha!infoline will be happy to answer personal queries: Monday to Friday, 08.30–12.00.
  • Products and services awarded the Swiss Allergy Label – an added benefit for sufferers.
  • aha!kinderlager for children with allergies aged between 8 and 12 years: holidays full of variety with lots of sports, play and fitness. Under expert supervision, children learn to deal better with their allergies and/or asthma.
  • aha!jugendcamp for youngsters aged between 13 and 16 years: a broad range of sports and leisure activities, skilled leaders tackle aspects of allergic diseases in adolescence.
  • Education and courses on the subjects "Allergy, asthma, chronic bronchitis", "Anaphylaxis" and "Neurodermatitis"
  • We value your opinion. Or would you like to exchange experiences with other sufferers? Find out more under "Beratung und Austausch"
  • Your donation will enable us to provide important services to people with allergies, asthma and neurodermatitis. Many thanks. Your support will be put to effective use.