Woman with asthma in New York City

What Are The Differences Between Allergies and Asthma?

By: | Tags: , , | Comments: 0 | April 14th, 2016

Woman with asthma in New York City

Allergies and asthma co-occur in some individuals. However, this isn’t true for every person. In some cases, a person may only experience one or the other. The symptoms of the two can overlap so it is important to know the distinctions.


Both conditions may affect the respiratory system. Allergies have the potential to cause wheezing, coughing and congestion, the same way asthma does. Both may potentially lead to inflammation and constriction of bronchial tubes causing shortness of breath.

Some of the causes of the symptoms of allergies and asthma are the same. Both conditions may be linked to an overactive immune system. Mold and pet dander can cause symptoms of both.

Neither of the two conditions is curable. Allergies may go away on their own, as you get older, or they may get worse. Breathing issues can also change with time. Conditions such as pregnancy can change how your body reacts to allergens, and both conditions are affected as a result.


Allergies can trigger asthma flare-ups. In fact, nearly half of all asthma cases are because of allergies. On the other hand, asthma doesn’t cause allergies.

Another difference is that the two cause different symptoms. Allergies only cause nasal and eye related symptoms including a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes and sneezing while asthma only triggers respiratory symptoms.

With either condition when a person experiences symptoms from an allergen, the way the body reacts depends on how it enters the body. For instance, people only react to food allergies when the food is consumed or touches the skin. It’s rare for a person to be sensitive to inhaling a food allergen, though possible. When a person has symptoms of asthma due to allergens, they must be breathed in.

Both conditions can be controlled through avoiding the items the person is hypersensitive to or by taking a medication. An asthma attack however, can still occur, even if a person is taking a regular medication to control symptoms.

Seeking Treatment

The drugs used to treat the two conditions are very different. Antihistamines are the drugs used to treat allergies. Some of the medications are taken daily, at least throughout allergy season, while others can be used on an as-needed basis. All of these medications work to block the histamine that causes symptoms of allergies.

Asthma has a wide range of drugs, some of which are prescribed as a daily regimen to control symptoms. One example is the brand name drug Advair, which was once only used for patients with COPD. Today, it’s prescribed to those with other breathing conditions as well. Albuterol is a drug in rescue inhalers that’s used in the event of an attack but may be prescribed on a regular basis for those who have respiratory symptoms from allergies.

If your doctor believes your case is serious enough, he or she may recommend an immunologist or allergist or pulmonologist.

At Boulevard Medical, we can treat patients who have both conditions. Our knowledgeable doctors have experience with both conditions and know the importance of an accurate diagnosis. Book an appointment with Boulevard Medical today.



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