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Managing your allergy and asthma symptoms

Written by by Tere Koenig, MD. Posted in May

Many of us breathe a sigh of relief as the warm spring air starts to replace the arctic temperatures of an Ohio winter. But if you are one of the millions who suffer with allergies and/or asthma, you might not greet the change in the seasons with relief. Your eyes water, your nose itches, and you get a little short of breath just thinking about mowing the grass, gardening, and running around the yard with your kids. You may find yourself holding a tissue box with one hand and rubbing your eyes with the other.

 

For people with asthma, this time of year can be challenging as your asthma attacks can be triggered by allergies. So let’s talk about the difference between allergies and asthma and what you can do to relieve your symptoms and enjoy the beauty of Ohio while it’s not covered in a blanket of white!

Allergies

Allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to things like plant pollen, grass, mold, pet dander, dust mites, or certain foods. These are often called allergy “triggers.” Allergy symptoms could include a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, hives, an itchy throat, and possibly an asthma attack.

Here are six tips to help you limit your allergy triggers and manage your allergy symptoms:

1. Know what the pollen level is in your area. You can find it on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website (aaaai.org). Just click “Pollen Counts” in the upper right corner of the homepage. Also, several news stations are now reporting the pollen index. When pollen counts are high, keep your windows closed and use air conditioning.
Tip: Pollen counts are usually at their peak in midmorning, early evening, and when the wind is blowing.

2. When outside, wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

3. Don’t hang your clothes outside to dry. Pollen may stick to them and make your symptoms worse.

4. Use “mite-proof” bedding and wash it frequently with hot water to reduce your exposure to dust mites.

5. Wash your hands after petting any animal, and wash your clothes after visiting people with pets.

6. Keep the humidity in your home low. This will limit your exposure to mold. Using a dehumidifier and cleaning damp areas, such as your bathrooms, kitchen, and basement, regularly can help.

Avoiding allergy triggers is a great first step in relieving your symptoms, but it may not be enough. And you might not be able to avoid some triggers. There are many over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help give relief. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to figure out what works best for you.

Asthma

Asthma is a lung disease that causes your airways to swell and become narrow. The most common symptoms are:

  • Coughing (especially at night, during exercise, or when laughing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound in your chest when you breathe)

Similar to allergies, asthma symptoms are also caused by triggers and many of them are the same. Asthma triggers are different for everyone but may include pollen, mold, dust, ragweed, pet hair, tobacco smoke, chemical fumes, strong odors, or exercise.

In addition to limiting your exposure to these triggers, it is very important to regularly take the medicines that help prevent your asthma symptoms from flaring. Asthma can be managed with both long-term medicines and fast-relief, or rescue, medicines. Long-term medicines are taken daily and are long-acting to help prevent symptoms from occurring. Fast-relief, or rescue, medicines are quick-acting and can open your airways quickly if your symptoms flare.

Talk to your healthcare provider to identify your triggers and develop an action plan that will help keep your asthma under control. Asthma and allergies can be manageable if you’re prepared. Know your triggers and have an action plan so you can enjoy a safe and active summer!❦

Mercy Health Emergency Plan