May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month
Spring has sprung, and that means it’s time for blooming flowers, budding trees, freshly cut lawns, itchy noses and tight chests. Spring is the peak season for those living with Asthma and Allergies, so it’s a great time to spread awareness about the diseases that affect over 60 million Americans.
Asthma and Allergies are often related. In fact, 60 million Americans are living with a combination of both. Since the dust, pollen, or even food that causes an allergic reaction can also trigger an asthma attack, it's important to understand both.
Asthma is a lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, making it difficult or impossible to breathe. People who have Asthma have sensitive airways that tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances. Inhaling those substances often leads to the tightening and narrowing of muscles around the airway. That means less air can get into the lungs. Mucus production can also increase during a reaction, further narrowing the airways.
Some of the main symptoms of Asthma include:
- Coughing that is often worse at night or in the early morning that can make it difficult to breathe
- Wheezing or a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when breathing
- Chest tightness that feels like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest
- Shortness of breath that makes it feel like you’re not able to get all the air out of your lungs
If you think you or someone around you might have Asthma, the first step to being screened is to speak with your doctor or pulmonologist about your symptoms. Your physician will most likely perform a physical exam and order tests to measure lung function like a Spirometry or Peak Flow test. From there, your physician should be able to classify your Asthma into one of four severity classes: mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, or severe persistent.
Every day, 44,000 people have an Asthma attack, and one in five has a combination of both.
Allergies occur when the immune system targets an irritant like pollen or a certain food protein as a threat and attacks it. Allergies are IGE-mediated, meaning, your immune system produces an abnormally large amount of an antibody called Immunoglobin E. Those IGE antibodies fight the “enemy” by releasing histamines and other chemicals, which trigger an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild to severe, including life-threatening anaphylaxis. Some mild symptoms can include hives, redness of the skin around the eyes and sneezing. More severe symptoms can include trouble swallowing, a weak pulse or a loss of consciousness. Since children usually have a different way of explaining their symptoms, pay attention to phrases like, “My mouth feels funny,” “If feels like there’s bugs in my ears,” or “There’s something stuck in my throat.”
If you think you or someone you know might have Allergies, it’s important to speak with your doctor or allergist about the symptoms. Giving your physician an accurate health history is very important. Your physician may test for Allergies by skin prick test, blood test, oral food challenge or trial elimination diet. As is with every medical condition, it is absolutely vital that those with Allergies and/or Asthma do not attempt to self-diagnose.
Every three minutes an allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room, and every six minutes, that reaction is classified as life-threatening anaphylaxis. Since Asthma and Allergies can lead to such volatile symptoms, it’s important that those living with both protect themselves.
Wearing medical ID jewelry can speak for you even when you can't, which can lead to life-saving treatment. Keeping medications like antihistamines, your Epipen or inhaler handy at all times is also vital. Your doctor is also a wealth of information, and building a plan can also lead to success.