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.
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Blow Away Spring Allergies
Many of the most common things people use to keep spring allergies in check may offer no relief at all. Take the right steps and you'll be on your way to feeling better in no time. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) shares five common mistakes and offers advice to help you stamp out springtime sneezing and wheezing.
- Treating symptoms without knowing their specific cause. More than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round allergies. An allergist, a doctor who is an expert in treating allergies and asthma, can perform tests to pinpoint exactly what you are allergic to and then find the right treatment to stop it.
- Racking up drugstore receipts with no relief. If over-the-counter medications aren't working talk with an allergist about treatment alternatives such as nasal spray or allergy shots, which can cure allergies in some cases and keep you out of the drugstore aisles.
- Treating after the sneezing starts. Don't wait until you're feeling bad to take allergy medication that has worked for you in the past – try taking it just before the season starts. Local forecasts can be a helpful cue: When the temperature warms up, pollens and molds are released into the air.
- Not avoiding your triggers. Finding the right treatment is important, but it's also essential to minimize your exposure to things you are allergic to. If you have a pollen allergy, keeping windows closed, showering when you come inside and staying indoors during mid-day when pollen counts are highest can make a big difference in how you feel.
- Eating produce that can trigger spring allergies. One in three seasonal allergy sufferers experience an itchy mouth, lips or throat, and may sniffle and sneeze after eating certain raw foods or fresh fruits. The condition is called oral allergy syndrome. The immune system of people who are allergic to pollen can sense a similarity between the proteins of pollen and those in foods. If you are allergic to tree pollen, for example, apples, cherries, pears, apricots, kiwis, oranges, plums, almonds, hazelnut and walnuts may cause an allergic reaction. Cooking or peeling the food may help, but be sure to talk to an allergist.
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Back on Track: How to Breathe Easier When Exercising
Are you or someone you care about running into breathing difficulties when playing sports or working out? Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB, is a serious but treatable condition that affects as many as 9 in 10 people with asthma, as well as 10 percent of people without it. Get back in the game by knowing your risk and taking steps to prevent symptoms.
What is EIB?
EIB causes the linings of the lungs' airways to become inflamed and swollen during or after exercise. Muscle spasms constrict airflow, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing or noisy breathing
- Trouble getting a breath
- Chest tightness
- Unusual fatigue
Symptoms may start after a few minutes of hard, continuous exercise, or may not appear until several minutes after you stop.
About 80 percent to 90 percent of the 23 million adults with asthma, including 7 million children, have EIB. One in 10 members of the general population has EIB, too. The condition also is common among elite athletes who exercise strenuously over prolonged periods.
Can I still exercise?
People with EIB and asthma should not have to stop exercising if their condition is properly treated to prevent symptoms before they occur.
What causes EIB?
Rapid breathing during exercise can cause the airways to dry out and become irritated. As a result, the airways actually get smaller, and it's hard to get air in and out of your lungs. This is more likely to happen when you exercise in cold, dry air, or when there is a sudden change in temperature or humidity.
Breathing through the mouth, which does not warm and humidify the air like the nose, can make symptoms worse.
How is EIB diagnosed?
It is important that people with EIB or EIB with asthma see an allergist to be diagnosed and treated early to help prevent damage to the lungs. When EIB is the only symptom of asthma, it may be hard to diagnose, since coughing or shortness of breath during exercise may have many causes. See an allergist when:
- Breathing difficulties are interfering with daily activities
- Breathing problems are decreasing quality of life
Warning signs of asthma are present, including:
- shortness of breath;
- wheezing or coughing, especially at night or after exercise;
- tightness in the chest; or
- frequent attacks of breathlessness, despite previous diagnosis and treatment for asthma.
Find a Free Screening
ACAAI allergists will be on the lookout for individuals with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) during National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month in May. Click here to read about the ACAAI Nationwide Asthma Screening Program with more than 200 free screening locations across the country.
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Allergists Sniff Out the Truth about Managing Pet Allergies
If someone in your home has pet allergies, you may wash the dog twice a week, steam clean your carpet or treat your pet with sprays or drops to reduce shedding, but is there any proof that taking these actions help?
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offers the following research-based environmental changes that can reduce the allergen levels in your home and may help stop symptoms:
- Replace carpeting with hard surfaces. Did you know carpeted floors accumulate 100 times more cat allergens than hard floors? Switch to polished surfaces like hardwood floors, stone or tile.
- Reduce fabric upholstered furniture. Research shows that upholstered furniture and curtains contain significant amounts of cat dander and even more than what is found on the floor.
- Wash bedding and curtains. To remove dog dander from bedding and curtains, use one of these three techniques: wash in water at least 140°F with one rinse; wash at any temperature with two rinses; or wash in a steam washing machine.
- Use tightly woven bed coverings. Protective coverings for mattresses, box springs and pillows are often recommended, and studies show that tightly woven fabric with openings less than 4 microns wide can reduce allergens.
- Make multiple changes for best results. Studies show that making multiple indoor environment changes is required to significantly reduce pet allergens.
Pet owners with allergies should see an allergist, who will discuss treatment options, including whether allergy shots (immunotherapy) can bring pet allergy symptom relief.
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Keep Your Green Thumb, Avoid the Red Nose
If you have a green thumb but are bothered by a red, stuffy nose caused by seasonal allergies, the ACAAI offers the following information to help you maximize time spent tending plants rather than sniffles.
As many as 40 million people have hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, wheezing and cough. Hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever. Rather, the culprit is pollen from trees, grasses and weeds. Peak season is usually March through October but varies by region depending on when pollination occurs. Tree pollen can begin as early as January in the South, for example.
Gardening tips for those with allergies:
- Garden when pollen counts are not high. Peak pollen times depend on the plant, the weather and your location. Watch your local forecast, and talk with an allergist, who can identify which plants trigger your symptoms and provide practical tips and treatment options tailored to your situation.
- Take allergy medications before you begin gardening rather than after symptoms start.
- Wear a mask to limit exposure. An allergist can help you find the type of mask that works best.
- Avoid touching your face and eyes while working outdoors.
- Watch for rain showers to temporarily clear pollen from the air. Brief thunderstorms, however, can actually increase pollen counts.
- Wash hands often and rinse eyes with cool water after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Shower and wash hair at night to prevent pollens from getting into bedding.
Read "Blow Away Spring Allergies" to learn how to steer clear of five common mistakes for seasonal allergies.
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Attend a Free Asthma Screening in May
Find out if you or your children are at risk for asthma by stopping in at a free local screening. For the 14th year, allergists across the country will be conducting free screenings at more than 200 locations, including in May, National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.
Signs of asthma — wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath — can strike at any time, including during exercise or even when you're trying to sleep.
During a screening, adults will complete a 20-question Life Quality (LQ) Test developed by the ACAAI. Children under age 15 can take a special children's version of the test called the Kids' Asthma Check. Parents also may complete the written questionnaire on behalf of young children.
Participants will take a lung function test that involves blowing into a tube, and then meet with an allergist to determine whether they should seek a thorough examination and diagnosis.
This year, participating allergists are reaching out to those who have difficulty breathing during or immediately after exercise and may have a condition called exercise-induced bronchconstriction (EIB). The condition affects up to nine out of every 10 people who have asthma, as well as another 1 in 10 people who do not have asthma.
For a list of asthma screening locations and dates, or to take online versions of the LQ Test and Kids' Asthma Check, visit Allergy and Asthma Relief.
The 14th Nationwide Asthma Screening Program is sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology with support from Teva Respiratory, LLC.
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Talk to Your Allergist About FDA Medication Warning
If you have asthma and take a long-acting beta-2 agonist such as Serevent, Foradil, Advair or Symbicort, you may have questions about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement requiring new warnings on product labels.
These medicines, when used in combination with inhaled corticiosteroid, play an important role in managing and controlling asthma, particularly in patients with moderate-to-severe asthma.
Talk with your allergist if you are concerned about your treatment or use of long-acting beta-2 agonists before changing or stopping your medication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Allergist Dr. James Sublett answers questions about allergies and asthma.
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Q: I cough when lying down at night. Could this be asthma even though I'm just resting?
A: Absolutely. In fact, coughing, especially at night, when exercising or laughing, is a common sign of asthma. Allergies and asthma can be triggered at any time, even at rest. Dust, mold, tobacco smoke and pets in your bedroom are a few possible causes. Make an appointment with a local allergist, who can identify your asthma and allergy triggers and stop them at their source.
You also may want to visit Allergy and Asthma Relief, where you can read more about allergy and asthma triggers and check to see whether a free asthma screening will be held near you.
Q: My 8-year-old has difficulty breathing during gym class, but I'd like for him to enjoy the benefits of developing healthy fitness habits and participating in team sports. What can I do?
A: Great question, and good for you for seeking safe ways to help your son stay in the game. Sounds like he could have EIB, also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Simply put, EIB is difficulty breathing during or shortly after exercising. As many as nine out of every 10 people with asthma have EIB, and one in 10 people without asthma have it, too, including many of our nation's most elite athletes. When properly diagnosed and managed, children and adults with EIB should not have to stop exercising. Walking, hiking, golf, baseball, football, gymnastics, and shorter track and field events are considered less likely to trigger EIB than endurance sports such as running and basketball. Read "Back on Track: How to Breathe Easier When Exercising" for more tips and treatment options.
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Listen Up for Spring Survival Tips
Tune in to a new podcast highlighting spring allergy survival tips and find out how you stop sneezing and wheezing.