Don’t let seasonal allergies evolve into allergic asthma
The arrival of spring means allergies are abloom in Middle Tennessee. While itchy red eyes, sneezing or a runny nose are mild annoyances to many, allergens also can trigger sinusitis, asthma, chronic cough and other pulmonary-related problems.
Chronic cough and post-nasal drip are less-recognized allergic reactions that can go misdiagnosed for months.
An allergic reaction typically triggers symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. These reactions can be dismissed as a lingering cold.
But unlike cold symptoms, which typically resolve within a week, allergic reactions can last weeks, even months. In the spring, the congestion culprit is typically pollen, which hits peak levels between April and May. For others, the ragweed and trees of fall bring on symptoms. For common non-seasonal allergens, such as dust, mold, pet dander and cockroaches, blood tests on patients can detect immune responses to different triggers.
Aside from the skin, our sinuses have the most contact with the outside world. Our respiratory tract and airways are constantly exposed to a variety of different things, and most aren’t harmful. Still, depending on your body’s sensitivity, an inflammatory response sometimes can be triggered.
Thirty percent of the nation’s adults suffer from allergies, a statistic that’s even higher in Middle Tennessee.
Can adults with no history of sinus problems suddenly develop allergies, including allergic asthma? The answer is yes.
Allergic asthma is typically seasonal and is most common in warmer spring months. The pulmonary disease is triggered by inflammation in the lungs and can be characterized by shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, chronic coughing, and trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing.
However, many with asthma live without symptoms for years, and others experience symptoms only in the spring or fall. Those with allergic asthma often have a personal or family history of allergies, such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, or an itchy skin rash called eczema. In fact, asthma and allergies are so closely related that 70 percent of asthma sufferers also have allergies.
A few simple steps can help prevent the onset of allergic asthma:
- Keep windows closed, and stay indoors during morning and evening hours, when pollen and mold spores are at their highest.
- Avoid smoking, which further irritates the airways, and avoid places where smoking is prevalent.
- Strenuous exercise and viral or bacterial infections also can worsen asthma.
While there is no cure, inhaler therapy and an aggressive treatment plan can help manage the condition and improve quality of life.
So how do you know if respiratory symptoms are allergy induced? Because symptoms can be subtle, pay attention to how you feel at different times during the year. Don’t put off treatment until you’re miserable, and, if possible, talk to your doctor now, before the start of peak allergy season.
If symptoms don’t improve quickly with over-the-counter products, or if asthma-related symptoms like chronic cough develop, it’s time to get help. Find out what your allergic triggers are and you’ll be able to prevent and control symptoms down the road.Share this Article