Got asthma? Avoid allergens

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If you have asthma, it may help to reduce your exposure to allergens. Previous research has shown that roughly two-thirds of all people with asthma also have an allergy, allergy experts say.

“What many people don’t realize is that the same things that trigger your seasonal hay fever symptoms — things like pollen, dust mites, mold and pet dander — can also cause asthma symptoms,” said Dr. Bradley Chipps, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

“If you have allergies, and you are wheezing or coughing, see an allergist to find out if you also have asthma,” he advised in an ACAAI news release.

“Allergists are also specialists at treating asthma and can put together a treatment plan to help you deal with both allergies and asthma,” Chipps added.

Allergic asthma — where allergies trigger asthma symptoms — is the most common type of asthma. As many as 80 percent of children with allergies also have asthma. Also, 75 percent of asthma sufferers aged 20 to 40, and 65 percent of those with asthma aged 55 and older, have one allergy or more.

“Effective treatment of allergic asthma includes identifying and avoiding allergens that trigger symptoms. After diagnosing asthma, we usually move on to using drug therapies and developing an emergency action plan to deal with severe attacks,” Chipps said.

“If you can cut down on the number of allergens in your life, you may also be able to reduce asthma symptoms,” he said. May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Allergies are just one of the factors that can trigger asthma attacks. Not all people with asthma have allergies and there are many people who have allergies but do not have asthma.

Some ongoing health problems can trigger asthma symptoms or make them worse. These include obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, acid reflux, stress and depression. Let your allergist know if you have one of these conditions so you can discuss the best approach to control both your health problem and your asthma symptoms. Colds and sinus infections can also worsen your asthma.

Effective treatment of allergic asthma includes identifying and avoiding allergens that trigger symptoms, using drug therapies and developing an emergency action plan for severe attacks. Your allergist may also recommend that you monitor your asthma by using a peak flow meter. This small handheld device allows you to measure how much air you are able to push out through your lungs. If your airflow is low, your allergist may recommend changes to your treatment plan, such as additional behavioral or environmental changes or a different asthma medication.

There are many effective medicines to treat asthma. Most people with asthma need two kinds: quick-relief medicines and long-term control medicines. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can also be helpful.

Patients may be reluctant to take medication because of cost or the potential side effects. If you have such concerns, talk with your allergist. Your allergist will work with you to find the right medicine, or combination of medicines, to manage your asthma and will adjust the dosage based on your symptoms and control. The goal is to have you feel your best with the least amount of medicine.

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