By Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain
Springtime is in full swing, which means allergy season is here! In the U.S. alone, more than 26 million people experience symptoms related to asthma. Additionally, 50 million Americans are affected by a variety of allergies including food, skin, pollen, and more. Both conditions are common causes of missed school and work days. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America sponsors May as awareness month to educate and motivate the public to take preventative action with their healthcare providers.
Allergies and asthma often occur in tandem, as the same substances are known to trigger both. Some of the most common triggers include pollen, dust, and dander. When the body mistakenly identifies one of these harmless substances as a threat, an allergic reaction is triggered. In most cases, this manifests as congestion, itchy eyes, or skin irritation. When an allergic reaction advances to affect the lungs and airways, asthma symptoms are likely to occur.
Asthma can become life threatening when symptoms worsen and cause constriction of airways, otherwise known as an asthma attack. Other symptoms of an asthma attack may include wheezing, rapid breathing, chest tightening, and anxiety. If you exhibit these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Family history of allergies or asthma are factors for development of these conditions.
It is recommended that you consult with your family physician to discuss a treatment plan to minimize your allergy and asthma triggers. Suggested steps can include limiting outdoor activity during early morning hours when levels are the highest. Limiting exposure to respiratory irritants such as smoke, keeping your home clean, regularly changing indoor filters, and avoiding leaving windows and doors open can also help reduce flare-ups.
Although there is no cure for asthma or allergies, taking preventative steps can greatly improve a person’s quality of life and eliminate the need for medical intervention. Knowing what triggers your symptoms and limiting exposure to these factors are the best measures one can take. It is also important to understand that symptoms can evolve over time, so regular check-ins with your physician are recommended to adjust treatment plans accordingly.
Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain is a general family medicine practitioner at Family Medicine Associates of Texas in Carrollton. She thoroughly enjoys improving the health and lives of individuals ranging from young children to adulthood. For more information, call 972-394-8844, or visit texasmedicine.com.