Supported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), May has been declared National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Millions of Americans suffer from these conditions, and they don’t discriminate – they affect people of all ages and backgrounds. According to the CDC, there are 25.5 million Americans living with asthma alone.
What Are Asthma and Allergies, and How Are They Related?
There is no cure for asthma, which affects the lungs and causes breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Though this is an incurable disease, it is possible to manage asthma attacks. Knowledge is the first weapon: knowing the warning signs of a possible attack and avoiding things that may trigger an attack are key preventative strategies.
Allergy symptoms can range in severity and vary depending on the allergen and individual. Mild symptoms can include congestion, itchy eyes, or a skin rash. Moderate symptoms can include difficulty breathing and itchiness. If the allergen is something from the air, it will most likely affect the eyes, lungs, and nose. Allergies can also trigger an asthma attack. Food allergies affect individuals differently, and possible complications include suffering from an irritated mouth and stomach. It’s also possible for food allergies to cause skin rashes or even asthma symptoms.
May is a time when many asthma and allergy suffers, especially those who have allergies or asthma triggers like pollen, dust, or insect stings, may experience an increase of symptoms. Spring is a great time to educate not only yourself, but your family and friends about these issues.
Health Focus on Asthma
Learning to control your asthma and being aware of the causes are two of the main goals of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. If you think you may be suffering from asthma, it’s a good idea to visit your primary care doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms, such as coughing (especially at night) and/or breathing problems that worsen after physical activity or at certain times of the year. Your doctor is best equipped to assess your individual and family medical history for risks and determine if asthma might be the culprit of your health issues. In many cases, your doctor will administer a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working.
If you are diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your symptoms and educate yourself about potential triggers. Triggers vary for everyone, so you need to get to know your own triggers and how to avoid them. Some of the most common include dust mites, outdoor air pollution, pets, mold, smoke from tobacco or burning wood, and cockroaches.
In addition to becoming aware of your triggers, it’s important to treat your asthma as your doctor recommends. Two common options include medicines that are breathed in via an inhaler or taken in a pill form. There are quick-relief and long-term control medicines as well. One is used to control the symptoms of an oncoming asthma attack, and the other is taken to help you have fewer or milder attacks.
Know your triggers, know the symptoms of an asthma attack, and follow your physician’s instructions. Work with a health care professional to develop an action plan that works for you, and educate your friends and family about your disease as you develop a support system to take control of your asthma. If you’d like to consult with a qualified health care professional, you can use Meritage’s “find a doctor” feature on our home page to find a doctor or specialist near you.