February 25, 2022
Asthma and Its Connection to Springtime Allergies
February can be such a dull and drab month. Winter holiday fun is over. The weather is either freezing cold, drizzly grey, or both. Springtime green is what we look forward to the most about this time of year. However, if you live with an asthma condition, you may wish winter would last forever. Why? Because spring! According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, more than twenty-five million Americans with asthma also have allergies. This is referred to as allergic asthma. California’s springtime allergies, particularly tree pollens, combine with asthma and worsen the misery of flare ups. Knowledge and guidance from your allergist and taking practical steps to avoid triggers, may bring balance to your seasonal, respiratory needs and the beautiful world that surrounds us.
The onset of spring brings seasonal allergies, and this will affect asthma flare-ups and overall health. How does one affect the other? First, look at what asthma is: Asthma is a lung disease that’s often controlled with medication. It can cause airways to narrow, producing more mucus than normal which leads to wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
According to the American Lung Association, there are four factors that contribute to developing asthma:
- Allergies: Some allergic conditions have been linked to asthma.
- Environment: Conditions at home, school and work can play a role in developing asthma as a child and as an adult.
- Genetics: People with a parent who has asthma are more likely to develop the condition themselves as asthma can run in families.
- Respiratory infections: Damage to lung tissue as a child that results from respiratory infections has been found to affect long-term lung function, exacerbating asthma.
When Asthma and Allergy Meet
Springtime allergies and allergic asthma occur because pollen and other air borne substances in the environment can cause inflammation in the bronchi in people who have allergies. This concentration of pollen in the environment can also result in certain acute episodes of asthma. The two conditions are related. Allergies are an immune or defensive response to different substances, which don’t normally cause reactions in most people. Allergens, such as pollens, can significantly impact chronic asthma. While allergies can trigger asthma symptoms, the main difference between an allergic reaction and an asthma response is where it occurs in the body. Allergens trigger a response in the upper respiratory system, and asthma attacks the lining and upper bronchial passages. The onset of allergic asthma is driven by allergens and requires a specified treatment to control conditions and minimize symptoms.
Medical treatments such as allergy shots, anti-immunoglobulin E(IgE) therapy and leukotriene modifiers are commonly used but its always best to consult your local allergist and other health care professionals who can diagnose your specific symptoms and prescribe a treatment plan specific to you. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment and keep all your scheduled appointments. Allergy and asthma symptoms can change over time and so may their treatments.
Lessening the Impact
When the trees leaf out and the flowers bloom it may be tempting to spend the entire day outdoors. Resist for now and avoid heavy pollen days when possible. Stay indoors from 5 to 10 AM when the pollen count is usually the highest. Also, a warm, breezy day will also mean more pollen hanging on the wind. Consult with local weather apps for most accurate pollen counts for your region. Use the air conditioner when home and don’t let the pollen in by throwing up the windows to let in all that fresh air ‘goodness.’ Go ahead and enjoy a cup of coffee at the outdoor café or go for a walk in the park, but at home, breathe the inside air. Also, clean or change the HVAC air filters regularly. If your car has the type of cabin air filter that needs to be replaced, have that done every 30,000 miles. Check the owner’s manual for more information.
To further reduce allergens inside your house, change clothing and shoes upon arriving home. Take a shower to rinse your hair and face. Be sure to toss the outside clothing in the wash for a quick rinse cycle.
Place more emphasis on what you put on the inside of your body. Choose fresh over frozen or canned versions of safe foods. Drink more water and plan your day to include more sleep to help reduce stress.
Create an asthma action plan and keep it up to date. This is invaluable for seasonal allergy asthma. The plan outlines your regular daily medications, what they are, when and how much to take and when to add any additional meds for flare up, plus when to call your doctor and/or seek medical help.
These are a few examples of the many ideas that can help lessen the impact of allergic asthma. Talk to your allergist for more tips and advice.
Arm yourself with knowledge about your condition. Keep yourself informed of new drug treatments and therapies and seek the help of your care team. Stay current on all medications and choose healthful alternatives for food, activity, and stress relief. If you don’t already have an asthma plan, create one. Balance within the quality of life and living with asthma can be achieved by careful attention to planning and preparedness.