Asthma, Immunotherapy, and Allergy Medicine Research


Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways of your lungs. These airways are also known as bronchial tubes. In the case of asthma, chronic means that it never goes away.

Asthma is one disease that has two main components occurring deep within the airways of your lungs:

Inflammation and constriction together cause narrowing of the airways, which can result in wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. In people with asthma, the airways are inflamed even when you’re not having symptoms.

Asthma can be very serious. In the United States alone, it leads to about 5,000 deaths, 2 million emergency department visits, and 500,000 hospitalizations each year. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that, if left untreated or improperly treated, asthma may cause long-term decline in lung function and lung scarring over time. These factors can make it more difficult to breathe and cause your symptoms to become more persistent and severe.

Asthma triggers include irritants in the environment that can provoke asthma symptoms or attacks. There are many triggers that can aggravate asthma symptoms, and they differ from person to person.

You can prevent asthma symptoms by identifying and avoiding your know triggers. In fact, identifying and avoiding asthma triggers should be part of a detailed treatment plan to help successfully manage your asthma.

Examples of triggers are: grasses, trees, dust mites, pets, indoor mold, and pollen or outdoor mold.


What is Immunotherapy?
Think of immunotherapy as a “vaccination” against allergies. However, unlike a single shot that you might get for tetanus or the flu, immunotherapy involves giving you steady, increasing amounts of substances that cause your allergies. The whole idea of treating you with the very things that make you miserable may seem a bit odd, but in many cases, it works.

What you Should Know About Immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy (also called allergy shots) may help people that have allergies (out-of-the ordinary sensitivity to substances that don’t bother most people) or asthma that gets worse from allergic triggers.

How does it work?
Doctors think that receiving regular amounts of the substances that cause your allergies actually make you less sensitive to them. In other words, allergy shots seem to build up your resistance to the things that cause your symptoms, so the next time you run into them, they give you less trouble.

For more information on allergy testing, call the office at 319-372-6280. Dr. Wenger-Keller performs allergy testing in the Burlington Office and Nurse Practitioner, Luanne Pfeiff, will be doing allergy testing in the Fort Madison Office.


Allergic rhinitis afflicts more than 39 million persons in the United States. Only about 4.8 million persons (12%) take prescription druges for this condition; most go without treatment or self-treat with over-the-counter medications, which generally contain a first-generation antihistamine. These medications may be effective but carry potential risks, including drowsiness and impairment in performing everyday tasks. These adverse events may be sufficient to dissuade some persons from treating their symptoms. Other patients take these sedating drugs, become impaired, and try nonetheless to perform complex tasks; as a result they are more likely to be involved in collisions.

A study was conducted to determine whether or not sedating antihistamines may impair driving peformance as seriously as alcohol. 40 licensed drivers with seasonal allergic rhinitis who were 25 to 44 years of age took part in the study.

One dose of Allegra (60 mg), Benadryl (50 mg), alcohol(approximately 0.1% blood alcohol concentration), or placebo (sugar pill), was given at weekly intervals before participants drove for one hour in the Iowa Driving Simulator.

Participants were more alert after taking alcohol or Allegra than after taking Benadryl. Lane keeping (steering instability and crossing the center line) was impaired after alcohol and Benadryl use compared with Allegra use. Mean response time to the blocking vehicle was slowest after alcohol use (2.21 seconds) compared with Allegra use (1.95 seconds). Self-reported drowsiness did not predict lack of coherence and was weakly associated with minimum following distance, steering instability, and left-lane excursion.

Participants had similar performance when treated with Allegra or placebo (sugar pill.) After alcohol use, participants performed the primary task well but not the secondary tasks; as a result, overall driving performance was poorer. After participants took Benadryl driving performance was poorest, indicating that Benadryl had a greater impact on driving than alcohol did. Drowsiness ratings were not a good predictor of impairment, suggesting that drivers cannot use drowsiness to indicate when they should not drive.

Reprinted from the Annals of Internal Medicine, March 7, 2000.