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Spring allergies and asthma

As flowers begin to bloom, allergies and asthma can become more prevalent in everyday life. Find information about symptoms and treatment options.

Allergies vs. asthma: What’s the difference?
Allergies are a common chronic disease that can happen often and for a long period. They occur when the body’s immune system sees a substance as dangerous and overreacts to it. When the immune system responds to these allergens, it sends out antibodies, and this is what we call an allergic reaction. There are multiple types including food, medicines, insects, and pollen. Pollen is a common allergy trigger during the spring and summer months. When an allergic reaction becomes life-threatening by limiting breathing, it is called anaphylaxis. 

Asthma is also a chronic condition, but it is caused by long-lasting inflammation that affects your airways, making it hard to breathe. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be treated and symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers and taking medications. Asthma triggers include stress, exercise, and environmental triggers like pollen. 

Ways to treat seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies are caused by the increased amount of pollen or other allergens that are only prevalent during certain seasons. They can be treated in a variety of ways. One simple prevention is to avoid the allergens by washing out your nose daily with a saline spray or limiting allergens in the home with an air purifier. There are also over-the-counter medications like decongestants, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. Another option is immunotherapy which entails being injected with an allergen in increasing doses over time to decrease sensitivity. 

Ways to treat asthma
Although asthma can’t be cured, it can be controlled using a variety of treatments. Asthma can be controlled with medications for many people. The primary method of taking asthma medications is with an inhaler or nebulizer. These small devices allow the medications to reach your lungs directly since you use them to inhale the medication. Nebulizers are an alternative to inhalers since they are easier to administer. The medications in inhalers can either be used daily to prevent symptoms or during an attack to control symptoms. There are also injectable and tablet forms of asthma medication. All of these treatment options must be prescribed by a healthcare provider. However, medications alone cannot control asthma, and avoiding triggers should also be considered part of the treatment plan. You can also visit our Asthma Symptom Guide for more information.

Why you should have an allergy and asthma plan
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, around 60% of people with asthma also have allergies that trigger their asthma, also known as allergic asthma. If you suffer from allergic asthma you should know your triggers and have an allergy and/or asthma plan in place. An asthma plan involves taking your medication, avoiding triggers, and knowing how to treat an attack with an inhaler or other emergency medications.

You can limit your chances of a hospital visit by remembering the acronym A.C.T., which stands for Action Plan, Carry, and Treatment. 

    Action Plans 
    First, create an action plan for asthma or anaphylaxis with your doctor to help identify severe symptoms and know which medication to take depending on those symptoms. You should also be able to identify when to seek medical attention. You should then print out your on a sheet of paper so that you can keep it with you. 

    Carry
    Next, you should carry your emergency medications and action plan sheet with you everywhere, along with your medical ID. Your medical ID can be used by medical personnel to find your health history and swiftly provide proper care. 

    Treatment
    Finally, treatment involves developing a treatment plan with your health care provider involving medications and therapies that limit your risk of attack. Once you have a treatment plan, know when and how to take all medications required. Be consistent with your daily medications and practice how to use your emergency medicine. 

    Following A.C.T. and spreading awareness can reduce the chances of severe attacks and reactions. That's why it is important to spread the word about Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month this May. 

If you are suffering from asthma or allergies and need treatment or help developing an action plan, please search for a provider near you using the Find a Doctor search tool.