Win the Battle Against Asthma and Allergies
When spring arrives, it usually brings misery to asthma and allergy sufferers around the country. Asthma and seasonal allergies are among the most irritating conditions that millions of people deal with regularly. Whether it’s watery eyes and runny nose brought on by hay fever or shortness of breath and chest pain of an asthma attack, these and other symptoms send people to their pharmacy or doctor in droves.
While there are many ways to treat symptoms when they occur, you can take preventive steps to reduce the likelihood of an attack if you have asthma and to minimize the aggravation of allergic reactions.
Identify your triggers
Asthma attacks don’t happen randomly. There are a number of conditions and substances that can set off common symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and others. These include:
- Air pollution
- Cold or flu virus
- Animal dander
- Chemical fumes
- Strenuous exercise
If you have asthma, it is important to know exactly what your personal triggers are so that you can avoid situations that put you at risk.
COVID-19 Advisory: If you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, or diarrhea, please call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 1-800-232-4636 for further guidance.
Avoid smoke of any kind
Virtually any type of smoke—whether from tobacco, fires, or even candles—is virtually guaranteed to make asthma worse. As a result, smokers often have a high risk of developing asthma as cigarette smoke irritates the airways. In addition, individuals whose mothers smoked or were exposed to secondhand smoke frequently during pregnancy are also at risk of developing asthma. As a general rule, stay away from any public places that permit smoking, and make your home and car a smoke-free zone.
Get your vaccinations
At minimum, get a flu shot every year for protection against the flu virus, which can worsen and prolong asthma as well as make you more susceptible to pneumonia. In fact, it is recommended that adults over the age of 19 who have asthma should get a pneumonia shot every 5 to 10 years as a precaution.
While researchers are not completely sure of an underlying cause, there is evidence that obesity may have links to asthma, possibly due to increased inflammation in the body and airways. Losing weight not only helps reduce the risk of asthma but it obviously has many other health and wellness benefits.
Know your family history
Research suggests that people with a family history of asthma are likely to inherit the condition. If others in your family have asthma, and you begin to exhibit asthma-like symptoms yourself, you should explore a management and treatment plan with your doctor soon.
Establish a healthy diet
There is evidence that consuming large amounts of processed foods may be connected to a higher risk of asthma. While no single food item can improve asthma symptoms on its own, eating well-rounded meals with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of asthma symptoms. Vegetables rich in beta-carotene (such as leafy greens and carrots) and foods full of magnesium (like spinach, avocados, nuts, and dark chocolate) are also recommended for asthma sufferers.
Consider your environment
If you have asthma, exposures to certain elements in the workplace or at home can cause asthma symptoms. And, for some people, exposure to certain types of dust (industrial or wood dust), chemical fumes and vapors, and molds can lead to developing asthma for the first time.
Seasonal Allergy Prevention
Keep the windows closed
While most communities are adhering to shelter-in-place mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing exposure to the outdoors, it’s tempting to open windows around the house or in the car when the weather is pleasant. However, breezes can bring in pollen and other allergens that can trigger allergic reactions. Keep windows shut and use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter in your home to trap allergen-causing particles. In the car, use air conditioning and set the fan to recirculate inside air.
Take precautions with your eyes
Pollen frequently uses your eyes as its doorway to your body. When outside, wear sunglasses and/or a wide-brimmed hat to block pollen from your face. It’s also helpful to have eye drops with antihistamine on hand when you’re out and about.
Shake it off before entering your home
Allergy-causing particles can hitch a ride on your clothes, shoes, and hair into your home. Before stepping inside, lightly brush off your clothes and shoes, and shake your head to help release any particles. In addition, during allergy season, avoid hanging your laundry on an outdoor clothesline.
Drink more fluids
If you feel stuffy from allergies, drink more water, juice, or other nonalcoholic drinks. Extra liquid can help thin out the mucus in your nasal packages. Teas, broths, and soup can also help if the weather is cooler.
Stay indoors in the morning
Pollen counts tend to be higher early in the morning so, if possible, wait until midday or afternoon to venture outside for neighborhood walks. During this time when COVID-19 risk is especially high, be sure to maintain a safe distance (at least 6 ft. or more) from others and to wear a mask when outdoors.
Clean your sinuses
You can flush allergens out of your nasal passages with a neti pot or saline irrigation solution, both of which should be available at your nearest pharmacy. While this may take a few minutes, it’s a highly effective way to relieve congestion and improve breathing.
To win the war against asthma and allergies, schedule a visit with your physician, who can help identify your sensitivities or can refer you to a specialist.
Eric Flenaugh, M.D. F.C.C.P.
Learn more about Dr. Flenaugh.