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Asthma and Allergy

Allergy sufferers should be taking their antihistamines. 

ASTHMA

Asthma is one of the most common lifelong chronic diseases. One in 14 Americans lives with asthma, a disease affecting the lungs, causing repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing.

Asthma is commonly divided into two types:

  1. allergic (extrinsic) asthma .

  2. non-allergic (intrinsic) asthma.

Allergic (extrinsic) asthma is characterized by symptoms that are triggered by an allergic reaction. Allergic asthma is airway obstruction and inflammation that is partially reversible with medication. Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, affecting over 50% of the 20 million asthma sufferers. Over 2.5 million children under age 18 suffer from allergic asthma. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness). However, allergic asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens such as dust mite allergen, pet dander, pollen, mold, etc. resulting in asthma symptoms.

Non-Allergic (intrinsic) asthma is triggered by factors not related to allergies. Like allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma is characterized by airway obstruction and inflammation that is at least partially reversible with medication; however symptoms in this type of asthma are NOT associated with an allergic reaction. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness), but non-allergic asthma is triggered by other factors such as anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, hyperventilation, smoke, viruses or other irritants. In non-allergic asthma, the immune system is not involved in the reaction.

 There are two groups of asthma medications:

1. Long term controllers

2. Quick relievers

Long-Term Controller Therapy for Asthma

Long term control medications help you keep control of your asthma.  The NHLBI Guidelines state that you probably need a long term control medicine if you have symptoms more than twice a week. You will need to take this medicine every day.

The anti-inflammatory group of controller medicines is the most important group of long term controllers which prevent or reverse inflammation in the airways. This makes the airways less sensitive, and keeps them from reacting as easily to triggers. In short, they actually prevent asthma episodes, e.g.,  Cromolyn Sodium and Nedocromil Sodium, Inhaled Corticosteroids, Oral Corticosteroids, Leukotriene modifiers, Long-acting beta agonists, Combined therapy medicine, Anti-IgE therapy, Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) and Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT).

Quick-Reliever Medications for Asthma

Quick relief medicines (inhaled and pills) are used to ease the wheezing, coughing, and tightness of the chest that occurs during asthma episodes, e.g., Short-acting bronchodilators, Short-acting beta agonists, Oral beta agonists and Theophylline.

Allergy

Beginning in February and lasting until June, several types of trees in this region produce pollen that can trigger nasal allergy symptoms—particularly birch, maple/box elder, oak, juniper/cedar, and pine trees.

From May to late August, grasses pollinate in the area including orchard, redtop, fescue, and timothy. Other grasses in the region that can trigger nasal allergy symptoms include vernal grass and Bermuda grass.

From August to October, weeds such as ragweed, plantain, and nettle pollinate in this region. Other weeds that are allergens or trigger nasal allergy symptoms include lamb’s quarter, cocklebur, pigweed, and Mexican fire bush.

Identifying your allergens

Nasal allergy symptoms can be triggered by indoor (or year-round) or outdoor (or seasonal) allergens.

Indoor (year-round) nasal allergy symptoms can persist year-round and are caused by indoor allergens like mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and animal dander. These allergens can be present in pillows and bedding, draperies, upholstery, thick carpeting, on your clothing, on your pets, and in moist areas of your home like bathrooms and basements.

Outdoor (seasonal) nasal allergy symptoms are very common and are usually caused by allergens that appear at specific times of the year, with some variation due to weather. In the spring, tree pollens are a common trigger.

 Common symptoms of seasonal allergies.

 

Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion, or a stuffy nose, may happen when your immune system releases chemicals in response to an allergen. This can cause the blood vessels inside the nose to swell. This in turn causes the lining of the nose to become swollen - giving you a stuffy nose.

Sneezing

Sneezing is another common nasal allergy symptom. Sneezing is the body’s reaction to an irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose or throat. These irritations can be caused by allergies. While repeated sneezing can be annoying, it is not considered dangerous.

Itchy nose

An itchy nose is tingling or uneasy irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the nose. An itchy nose can be caused by allergies.

Runny nose

Runny nose refers to the discharge of mucous-like fluid from the nose. A runny nose can be caused by allergies.

 Treatment

1. Avoiding your allergens.

2. Antihistamines and Decongestants.

* Remember that using a non-prescription nasal decongestant spray more than three days in a row may cause the swelling and stuffiness in your nose to become worse, even after you stop using the medicine. This is called a “rebound” reaction. 

3. Immunotherapy (allergy shot)

4. Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)

 

Source- National Allergy Forecast, pollen.com & Asthma and Allergy Foundation.