Allergies and asthma can go hand-in-hand with some of the same substances that trigger allergy symptoms also causing asthma symptoms. Allergic reactions begin in the immune system when it overreacts to an allergen and produces antibodies that release histamine and other chemicals, causing symptoms like nasal congestion and itchy eyes. For some, the same reaction leads to asthma symptoms in the lungs and airways. And, in serious cases, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur.
Signs & symptoms
Allergies and asthma affect one out of five Americans. While hay fever is the most common type of allergy affecting airways, sinuses and nasal passages, allergies to food, drugs and insects can affect the digestive system and skin.
Asthma typically starts in childhood. The exact cause of asthma is not known and it cannot be cured, but with proper management people with asthma can live full, active lives. It’s estimated that up to seventy percent of people with asthma also have acid reflux or heartburn. GERD or acid reflux can cause bronchial spasms and irritation which can lead to an asthma attack.
It’s critical to know your triggers and get ahead of them. Both allergies and asthma can be triggered by dust, trees, mold, animals and pollen. In general, there are three pollen seasons. The timing of these seasons, as well as the plant varieties, varies based on your climate. Trees pollinate in the spring with birch, cedar, pine and cottonwood being big allergy triggers. Grass releases pollen in the summer including Rye and Timothy as well as Johnson grasses. Weeds cause hay fever in the fall and ragweed is the biggest trigger.
While allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, there are other types with different kinds of triggers. Many people have more than one asthma trigger.
Talk to your doctor at the first sign of allergies or asthma. Strive to get ahead of the triggers and prevent a full-on allergic response. For example, if you’re allergic to pollen, look at the pollen levels and air quality index and avoid going outside on high pollen count days to minimize exposure. Start your allergy medication one month before your trigger season arrives so you build up the antihistamine levels in advance.
Rinsing your nose with a neti pot or other nasal irrigation can relieve sinus symptoms and triggers before they have a chance to cause inflammation. You can also trial an over-the-counter allergy medication.
Tips to reduce symptoms
• KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS and avoid or minimize them.
• LIMIT OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES during high pollen count days.
• CLOSE YOUR WINDOWS at home and in the car to keep pollens out.
• TAKE A SHOWER and change your clothes after coming indoors so the pollen doesn’t bother you all night.
• Keep your home WELL VENTILATED AND MAINTAIN HUMIDITY levels between 30 to 50 percent.
• DUST WITH A WET CLOTH AND VACUUM using a HEPA filter or filter-less vacuum twice weekly.
• COVER YOUR MATTRESS AND PILLOWS in dust-proof, zippered cases.
• WASH LINENS, RUGS AND CURTAINS often.
Need help identifying your triggers?
North Memorial Clinics can help diagnose and treat asthma and allergies with a team of physicians, pharmacists and certified asthma educators supporting you. To schedule an appointment, call 763.581.CARE.