Welcome to Allergy and Asthma News, a newsletter with information about how you can find relief from your allergies and asthma and how an allergist can help.
Periodic Symptoms Amount to Years of Unnecessary Suffering
Over the course of your lifetime, that sniffling and sneezing you may consider just a part-time nuisance can add up to years unnecessarily spent feeling not as good as you could.
Nearly half, or 43 percent, of allergy and asthma sufferers who participated in a recent survey* conducted on behalf of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reported that they experience symptoms for two to six months a year. That can amount to between 12 to 36 years during your lifetime, according to the new calculator to determine potential lifetime suffering on the Allergy and Asthma Relief Web site.
The top things missed or given up by survey respondents because of their symptoms included feeling good all day and getting a good night's sleep. Another 1 in 10 people said they missed not being able to have a pet.
Other noteworthy findings from the survey of 502 allergy and/or asthma sufferers include:
- Nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) experience symptoms daily
- Another 15 percent have symptoms at least half the year
- More than half (54 percent) don't feel good all day (36 percent) or sleep well at night (18 percent) because of their symptoms.
"There's no need to suffer. Treatments are available and highly effective," said allergist Dr. Richard Gower, president of ACAAI. "Allergists will work with you to get to the root cause of your suffering and to control rather than just temporarily treat, or mask, your symptoms. Our goal is to help you go on about your life feeling good, doing what you enjoy, and sleeping peacefully at night."
Eight in 10 patients in another recent survey said taking matters into their own hands with self-medication falls short of being "very effective." The survey found that those who had seen an allergist were nearly three times more likely to say their treatment was effective than those who took over-the-counter medicine.
If you think you may be suffering unnecessarily from your symptoms, visit Allergy and Asthma Relief and take the Relief Self-Test. After taking the test, you are provided a Relief Plan. The plan is provided immediately and will explain how to:
- Identify the source of your symptoms
- Avoid things that trigger your allergies or asthma
- Partner with an allergist to take control of your condition
- Use treatments such as medications and allergy shots
* Survey Methodology: Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted 1,206 internet interviews between February 6 and 15, 2009; 502 respondents were allergy and/or asthma sufferers.
New features, tips and tools are added regularly to Allergy and Asthma Relief. Check out two of the latest updates:
Calculate time lost to your sneezes and wheezes: Key in the frequency of your allergy or asthma symptoms during the last year, and the new online Lifetime Symptom Calculator will convert that figure into the amount of time you could spend suffering unnecessarily over the course of your life. For example, even just a couple months of putting up with symptoms each year adds up to 12 years of suffering during the average lifespan. Now there's a reason to seek relief!
Find out how you compare with the rest of the country: The results of a new survey give insight on how often people are suffering with allergies and asthma and what they're giving up because of these conditions.
Show sniffling pals you care with an e-card: Seasonal allergies are in full swing. Send a free animated e-card and point allergy and asthma sufferers to the wealth of content available on the Web site.
Bid Bon Voyage to Allergies and Asthma During Your Vacation
Preparation and prevention pave the way to successful travel for the millions who have allergies and asthma. Allergists offer the following tips to help you keep these conditions at bay while you're on vacation.
Things to do before you go:
- Consider an allergen-free destination. Beaches and mountains are excellent year-round destinations for allergy sufferers. Ocean breezes are generally free of allergens, dust mites are fewer at elevations above 2,500 feet, and mold spores can't survive in snow.
- Check weather and pollen forecasts and plan accordingly. For example, if you're allergic to ragweed, New York can be significantly better in early August rather than later in the month.
- Pack allergy and asthma gear. Bring medications in carry-on luggage, in their original packaging. Include quick-relief medications for asthma and an epinephrine auto-injector if you or a family member has food or insect sting allergies. Don't forget topical hydrocortisone cream, an antihistamine, and your peak flow meter and nebulizer. Also consider packing your own mite-proof pillowcases, and bring baby wipes for cleaning trays and tables if you have food allergies.
- Talk to your allergist. Checking in with your allergist before departure is especially important if you'll be traveling abroad and may need vaccinations or immunizations. Also discuss where you're going and what activities you may do. For example, locations with elevations above 5,000 feet may make breathing difficult and cold weather can be a trigger for asthma patients. Asthma patients also should talk with an allergist before engaging in activities such as scuba diving.
- Check access to medical care. If you are going to a remote location or on a cruise, you should ask in advance about the type of medical care available.
Prepare for the Ride
- Travel during early morning or late evening hours, when air quality is better and traffic isn't as heavy.
- If you rent a car, ask for one in which no one has smoked.
- Keep your windows rolled up and use your air conditioner. Consider getting your automobile's air conditioner cleaned in advance.
- Take an antihistamine in advance. If you're congested, use your regular medication and consider using a long-acting decongestant nasal spray before take-off and landing.
- Notify the airline of food allergies ahead of time.
- Get up frequently and walk around the cabin.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol to stay hydrated.
- Use a saline nasal spray once every hour to keep your nasal membranes moist.
Following are some lodging tips to reduce the allergens when you're away from home.
- Request a non-smoking hotel room.
- Air conditioners and portable air cleaners with HEPA filters, and tile, wood or seamless vinyl floors reduce airborne allergens.
- If you have food allergies, consider reserving a hotel room with a kitchen.
- If you are traveling to a non-English speaking destination, bring translated information about your food allergies for restaurant chefs.
The Buzz on Bee Stings and Allergies
One minute you're sipping soda and munching on picnic goodies, the next a stinging insect decides to join in the fun. Calmly walk away and you'll likely be OK, unless that bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket decides to strike.
More than half a million people each year wind up in emergency rooms and 50 will die from stinging and biting insects, according to the ACAAI.
Pain, redness and even a bit of swelling at the site of the sting are normal but be on the lookout for the following allergic reactions, which can occur within minutes or hours after the incident and require immediate medical attention:
- Hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the sting site
- Chest tightness and difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the tongue, throat, nose and lips
- Dizziness and fainting, or loss of consciousness, which can lead to shock and heart failure
If you've had an allergic reaction to a sting in the past, see an allergist – a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of allergies. You have a 60 percent chance of a similar or worse reaction if you are stung again.
An epinephrine auto-injector – adrenaline injected to counter the effects of a very serious allergic attack – can be prescribed and you and your family members will be taught how to administer an injection on the spot if a severe reaction occurs. Venom immunotherapy – allergy shots that are 97 percent successful at preventing future allergic reactions to stings – is another effective treatment option for some.
Q: What's the best way to find out what I'm allergic to?
A: See an allergist, a physician with additional, specialized training to diagnose, manage and treat allergies and asthma. The doctor will review your health history, give you a physical exam and administer any necessary tests to identify the substances to which you are allergic. Skin tests, for example – a method sensitive to even subtle allergies and which involves exposing your skin to small amounts of allergy-causing substances and watching for reactions – can identify the cause of your suffering and put you on the road to relief. To find an allergist, click here.
Q: What's the difference between allergies and asthma?
A: Allergies are an immune system response, or oversensitivity, to an environmental "trigger" (known as an allergen), such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander or certain foods, to name a few. Signs of an allergic reaction include frequent or regularly recurring itchy eyes, nose, mouth or ears, sneezing, a runny nose, dry skin or hives, a productive cough, wheezing or tightness in your chest. Allergies can trigger an asthma attack; however, asthma is present in some people without allergies. Asthma involves inflammation of the lungs that constricts the muscles around your airways, resulting in chest wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. The bronchial tubes tighten and air flow is reduced as the lungs expand. While allergens provoke most asthma attacks, other triggers include smoke, cold or humid air, strong odors, and strenuous exercise. Allergies and asthma are treatable and the first step is proper diagnosis to pinpoint the source of your symptoms. To find an allergist who is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, click here.
Q: What can I do to reduce the effects of seasonal allergies?
A: There are a number of steps you can take to help stop symptoms:
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioning in your home or car to reduce your exposure to airborne allergens.
- Schedule outdoor activities early or late in the day and limit your exposure to peak pollen hours.
- Make an appointment with an allergist will help you identify your specific allergies and give you an action plan tailored to your needs. Peak time for ragweed sufferers to avoid, for example, is early midday; whereas, grass pollens are at their peak in the afternoon and early evening.
- Shower right after you come in from outside to wash pollen right out of your hair and clothes and help keep it out of your beds linens, which also should be laundered frequently to keep indoor and outdoor allergens away when you sleep.
- Last, don't fret a rainy day. It washes the pollen away!
Learn more by taking a free online quiz to receive your own personalized Relief Plan and by reading about others who are keeping their conditions under control.