April Showers Bring May Flowers … and AllergiesExercise and Nutrition
Florida’s warm and temperate weather makes allergy season more like a year-round event for people with allergies. Many people with asthma also have allergies. In fact, allergens are the most common cause of asthma, a condition known as allergic asthma.
In observance of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, Dr. Elvin Mendez shares tips on how to manage your asthma so you can smell the roses. Dr. Mendez is board-certified in Allergy and Immunology and is the medical director of Academics, Clinical Research and Precision Medicine at Lee Health.
“Allergic asthma is a breathing condition when your airways become inflamed when you inhale an allergen. This exposure triggers the immune system, causing the muscles around the airways to swell. This narrows the airways and makes breathing difficult,” Dr. Mendez explains.
Common allergens that cause allergy-induced asthma include pollen, dander, dust mites, cockroaches and mold.
Certain foods can cause an asthmatic reaction in people, too. Did you know that sesame has joined the list of major food allergens? (Milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans are the others.)
The tiny sesame seed can cause big trouble for people who are allergic to it. Learn more about food allergies and how to manage them in this issue of Healthy News here.
Allergic asthma is common in both children and adults. More than 60 percent of people with asthma have allergic asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Allergic asthma produces the same signs and symptoms as other types of asthma:
- Chest tightness or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
If you have skin allergies or hay fever, you might also experience itchy and watery eyes, itchy skin, congestion, and an itchy, runny nose.
How is allergic asthma diagnosed?
Your allergist will talk with you about your medical and family history. They will also give you an exam and do skin or blood tests to find out if you’re allergic to any common allergens.
“The most common allergy skin tests are the skin prick tests,” Dr. Mendez says. “Results are interpreted within 15 minutes of application.”
Your doctor will also assess how well your lungs breathe in and breathe out air. These are called lung function tests that can determine if you may have asthma. These tests can include:
- Spirometry test: This test measures the volume and capacity of your lungs by measuring how much you breathe in and out.
- Fractional exhaled nitric oxide test (FeNO test): This test measures the amount of nitric oxide in your breath when you exhale. It is a way of determining the degree or severity of inflammation.
How do I treat my allergic asthma?
There are quick-relief and long-term control types of asthma medicines, according to Dr. Mendez.
“Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack when they occur. They may be appropriate if your asthma symptoms occur infrequently,” he explains. “If you have mild asthma symptoms almost daily, long-term control medicines can help prevent and manage those symptoms. They can help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.”
For people with more severe asthma symptoms, daily oral or injectable medications with anti-inflammatory effects may be required.
Dr. Mendez cautions that while some asthma medicines can have side effects, most are mild and soon disappear.
“You can control your asthma,” Dr. Mendez says. “It’s important that you know the warning signs of an asthma attack, stay away from things that cause an attack, and follow your doctor’s advice.”
Dr. Mendez recommends that you and your doctor create your asthma action plan, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Your goal is to prevent and control your asthma attacks,” he says. “Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where they should keep it. Just because you have allergic asthma or any other form of asthma, shouldn’t keep you from living your best quality of life.”
Get your free copy of the CDC’s Asthma Action Plan here.
Take control of your asthma through the Asthma Management Program offered by Lee Health. Based on guidelines by the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, the Asthma Management Program is the only outpatient asthma education program in Southwest Florida.
Learn more about Lee Health’s Asthma Management Program here.