Warm weather. Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. Spring is here and so are the allergies. Tree pollen is the biggest cause of spring allergies. People with severe grass and ragweed allergies will start feeling the symptoms in a couple of months. That means more than 50 million allergic Americans are bracing themselves for sneezes and watery eyes.
Some things that cause allergy symptoms may also trigger an asthma attack, but allergies and asthma are not the same thing.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES?
Allergic reactions occur when your immune system mistakes a usually harmless substance for something dangerous. The body then produces antibodies which are on alert for this allergen. When a person is exposed to this allergen in the future, the body produces chemicals, such as histamine, that causes allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms frequently include nasal congestion; runny nose; itching of the eyes, nose, throat or roof of the mouth; and skin reactions.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Anyone can get asthma; however, it tends to run in families. Asthma is an inflammation and swelling of the airways. It can be a reaction to many things, but in some cases that swelling can be an allergic reaction. Swelling results in narrow airways which make it more difficult for air to reach the lungs so people with asthma feel like they cannot breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or pain, and trouble breathing.
DO ALLERGIES CAUSE ASTHMA?
No. Allergies do not automatically cause people to develop asthma. But these conditions are related, and they can occur together. Many people with allergies never develop asthma, but more than 10 million Americans do have allergic asthma according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In this case, the allergic reaction affects the lungs and the symptoms of asthma can occur. However, not everyone with asthma has the same symptoms. It is important to recognize and treat these symptoms in order to keep asthma under control.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
The early symptoms include:
• Frequent cough
• Shortness of breath or easily losing your breath
• A feeling of tightness or wheezing in the chest
• Extreme weakness when exercising
• Signs of an upper respiratory infection, cold, or allergy
• Difficulty sleeping
Over-the-counter remedies may help some people when pollen causes minor allergy or allergic asthma symptoms. For those with more severe reactions, Patient First Medical Center physicians may prescribe stronger treatments. Pollen related symptoms may also be reduced by changing your routine.
Some ideas include:
• Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
• Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
• After spending time outside, take a shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair and put on clean clothes.
• Wear a face mask if you do outside chores.
• Start taking over-the-counter antihistamines when high pollen counts are forecasted even before your symptoms start.
• Use air conditioning in your house and car.
• Wash your bedding in hot water.
• Vacuum and clean floors frequently.
• Use high efficiency air filters and change them frequently.
• Use mattress and pillow covers.
Information from Patient First