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The Possible Link Between COPD and Allergies

Many people with COPD also have asthma and many people with asthma also have allergies. So, are there also links between COPD and allergies? I recently investigated this topic. This is what I learned.

Are allergies common in those with COPD?

When physicians think of asthma, they also think of allergies. This is because allergies can trigger asthma attacks, and up to 60 percent of asthmatics also have allergies. 

This explains why most asthma guidelines mention allergies. It explains why physicians screen newly diagnosed asthmatics for allergies. If allergies exist, strategies are available to help control them and thereby help control asthma.1-3

When physicians think of COPD, they don’t necessarily think of allergies. Most COPD guidelines don’t even mention allergies. Although, this may soon change in light of recent study results.

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Recent studies show that 20-30% of people with COPD also have allergies. They show that having allergies on top of COPD may cause increased respiratory symptoms and flare-ups. This is something researchers continue to investigate.4-5

Do allergies cause COPD?

Researchers are well aware that smoking cigarettes may cause one to develop COPD. Although, they have yet to find any evidence showing a similar link between allergies and COPD. 5

Likewise, one study showed that just under 8% of people with allergies also had a diagnosis of COPD. At the same time, just under 19% of people without allergies also had a diagnosis of COPD.5

Researchers decided this difference was “highly significant.” They devised a theory explaining it. They concluded that people with allergies might be more likely to make extra efforts to avoid airborne irritants, like cigarette smoke, compared to those without allergies.5-6

Sinus issues for those with COPD

Supporting this theory are statistics showing people without allergies are more likely to smoke cigarettes than people with allergies.5-6

Another interesting finding is regarding sinus and nose issues. Various studies have noted that many people with COPD also have disorders that involve the nose and sinuses, such as sinusitis. Initially, researchers suspected this might be due to an allergy component.6

Although, subsequent studies showed otherwise: COPD may cause nasal and sinus disorders even in the absence of allergies. So, what this means is that COPD on its own may cause allergy symptoms.6

So, just because allergy symptoms are present does not necessarily mean a person with COPD also has allergies. In this case, further evaluation may be necessary to rule out allergies.

This research may benefit those with both COPD and allergies.

So, this is just a small sample of what researchers are learning about the links between allergies and COPD, and I think it is enough of a piece to inspire some changes to future COPD guidelines.

Just like asthma guidelines, future COPD guidelines may include strategies to help physicians properly screen their COPD patients for allergies. If allergies are suspected, this may inspire a referral to an allergy specialist, such as an immunologist. These doctors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and monitoring allergies over time.

So, if you also have allergies, they may be contributing to your symptoms. Gaining control of your allergies may help you gain control of your COPD.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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