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Do you have an allergy or asthma? They’re two very different conditions that can appear similar at first. Figuring out which one you have is important for successful treatment. Here’s a breakdown:


An allergy is essentially an immune system response – your body is overreacting to a particular substance. Allergies are often caused by substances like pollen, dust or pet dander; they can also be caused by certain foods like shellfish or peanuts. 

The symptoms of an allergy include itchy eyes, a runny nose, dry skin and hives. These symptoms can be treated with medication or by avoiding the allergen. The big problem with allergies is that they can trigger a bigger problem – like asthma.

Being aware of what sets you off can help

you limit exposure and keep allergies and

asthma at bay.


Asthma is an inflammation of the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. The same substances that can trigger allergies can also trigger an asthma attack (also known as allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma). Other asthma triggers can include exercise, smoke and stress. 

Most people with asthmas should take daily “maintenance” medication to reduce the inflammation in the airways. This helps to prevent attacks, especially when combined with a “rescue” medication during flareups.

Not everyone with asthma has allergies (or vice versa). Regardless, people with asthma should be extra careful about avoiding any allergens. Depending on your condition, your doctor may treat you with allergy shots or other therapies to manage symptoms. 

The best thing you can do is to know your triggers. Something like pet dander may not affect you, but you may be extra sensitive to pollen. Being aware of what sets you off can help you limit exposure and keep allergies and asthma at bay. Just keep in mind that triggers can change as you age. 

Have questions about allergies or asthma? AvMed’s Nurse On Call is ready to help you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just dial 1-888-866-5432 to speak to a registered nurse. Learn more about the service here.



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