Cough, cough, achoo: Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Posted on May 7, 2019 by kerri

Asthma and allergies can both sneak up on you when you don’t expect them to. They (along with eczema) can occur together, but they can also develop independently—people with allergies are more likely to have asthma, and vice versa, but the two do not always happen together.

What is Asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease in which the airways become inflamed (swollen) and the muscles around the airways tighten. This causes difficulty breathing—and symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. Depending on where you live, between 8 and 12% people have asthma—in children, it is more common in boys than girls, but after puberty, it becomes more common in more girls and women than men and boys. Asthma can onset at any age, but is most common to begin in childhood, or after age 40. [1]
It is treated with a variety of medicines, most often bronchodilators to relieve symptoms and inhaled corticosteroids to decrease inflammation in the lungs.
Asthma can affect a person only a few times a year, or it can cause breathing problems of varying severities every day—because of this, asthma is often classified as intermittent (happening once in awhile), or mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent. Asthma symptoms can be triggered by both non-allergic triggers (ie. exercise, smoke, cold or humid weather, chemicals and perfumes), and allergic triggers (ie. dust mites, pet dander, grasses and pollens, molds, etc.). Some triggers can be avoided more easily than others. People do not outgrow asthma, but sometimes symptoms become “dormant” and it looks like asthma has gone away, but it may pop up again! Asthma triggers can be unexpected, so it is important to always carry your rescue inhaler with you, and wear an asthma medical ID bracelet just in case.

What are allergies?
Like asthma, allergies can range from an annoyance—such as milder, sneezy seasonal allergies—to a year-round problem like perennial allergic rhinitis—to severe problems, such as life-threatening allergic reactions to foods, called anaphylaxis.
It is important to try to avoid milder allergens, such as seasonal allergens like mold and pollen, and year round ones like dust and pet dander, as much as possible. When you can’t avoid them, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine can be helpful to prevent allergy symptoms.
When it comes to life-threatening allergies though, such as to foods like peanuts, tree nuts, fish shellfish and milk (for just a few common examples), insect stings, and latex, it is important to avoid these substances at all times, and never get complacent. If you have food allergies, read the label every time, and if you are out to eat, always ask to speak with the chef directly about how your food will be prepared and which menu options are safe for you—it can be helpful to carry cards with you that document your allergies that you can provide to your server to take to the chef. If you have one, it is important to carry your epinephrine autoinjector, such as an Epi-Pen, at all times in case you have an unexpected reaction. It is also important to wear an anaphylactic risk medical ID bracelet or a food allergy medical bracelet noting your allergies. It may be a good idea to engrave your allergies, use Epi-Pen then call 911 to your ID tag, so that if you cannot communicate the right steps are taken if you are unable to speak.

Allergies and asthma can both be life-changing diagnoses, but they can also be lived with if you learn all you can and are careful to avoid your triggers. Wearing an allergy or asthma medical ID bracelet or medical necklace can help you feel confident to do what you want to do, while knowing you are prepared if the unexpected happens.

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