April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring…sneezing and wheezing.
With a winter thaw and nicer weather come spring allergies, made worse by the pollen that comes from those blooming plants—not to mention the pollution, dust, chemicals and pet hair that also cause problems. Allergy symptoms from pollen and other irritants can make your asthma symptoms worse.
May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, a good time to help you understand how those two are connected, and what you can do to help control your symptoms if you have asthma, allergies or both.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease—meaning you live with it daily—and can be serious or even life-threatening. It happens when the inside of the airways swell and breathing muscles tighten, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma can start at any age, from young children to later in life.
There are several types of asthma:
- Asthma from exposure to chemicals or dust
- Exercise-induced asthma, which is often worse in cold and dry air, and
- Allergy-induced asthma
Symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath,
- Tight feeling or pain in the chest,
- Coughing or wheezing that is worse with a cold or the flu, and/or
- A wheezing or whistling sound when breathing out.
The reason that asthma can be worse in spring is because the airways in your lungs that are often inflamed or swollen are sensitive to “triggers”— things such as weather (including cold temperatures), pollen, dust, or smoke.
Since asthma already makes it harder to move air in and out of your lungs, these triggers make breathing even more difficult. This is because when you breathe in one of those triggers, your airwaves swell and the muscles around your lungs tighten. When this happens, it is called an asthma attack, asthma episode or asthma flare-up.
Spring Allergies and Asthma
Often, allergies and asthma are connected. Studies have shown that two-thirds or more of those with asthma also have an allergy. The most common form of asthma is allergic asthma, when allergies, which are worse in spring, become triggers for asthma symptoms.
Spring allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose,
- Nasal congestion,
- Watery, itchy eyes,
- Itchy mouth or throat,
- Breathing difficulties, and
- Tightness in the chest.
How Asthma Is Treated
While there is no cure for asthma, it can be managed and kept under control so that you can live a normal life.
Asthma is treated by two different types of medications: quick-relief and long-term. Your healthcare provider may prescribe one or both of these types of medications to help control your asthma. Quick-relief medications such as albuterol should only be used as needed for emergencies. Those with frequent asthma symptoms are treated with long-term controller medications, which are taken on a daily basis to help with airway inflammation and other symptoms.
Note: It is important to use an inhaler properly for the medicine to reach your airways. Make sure your healthcare provider shows you exactly how to use your inhaler, and also watches you use it to make sure you are doing so correctly.
Tips to Reduce Asthma in the Spring
There is a lot you can do to help prevent yourself and your family from suffering from spring allergy symptoms. Here are some suggestions:
- If you’re going outside, check the air quality for the level of pollen, pollution and any other triggers that can cause you allergy symptoms.
- If pollen from blooming plants bothers you, keep your windows closed in both your home and your car. Close your car’s vents and use air conditioning instead.
- Take your shoes off when you enter your home. Shoes can track in pollen from walking outside.
- Shower and wash your hair before bed, since pollen can stick to you. Wash clothing that might have collected pollen.
- Wash your sheets and blankets in hot water, and vacuum carpets and furniture often.
- Take your asthma medication as directed, even if you are feeling okay. Also, if you know allergy season will make your asthma symptoms worse, start taking any recommended allergy medication at least two weeks before the season starts.
- Consider getting allergy shots. There is no cure for spring allergies, but these shots can help. Check with your healthcare provider.
- If you smoke, quit and avoid being around someone smoking. Smoking can make your symptoms worse, and it also makes asthma medication less effective.
Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider often, especially if the spring allergy season makes your asthma worse, or you experience any changes in your symptoms. Lastly, asthma can change over time so it’s important to see your doctor regularly to make sure you have the best medicine available for you.
If you have been diagnosed with asthma, you automatically qualify for our Asthma Disease Management Program. This program will help you better understand how to control your asthma, update you on new information about asthma, and connect you with health professionals to help you manage your health.
If you would like to learn more about the Asthma Disease Management Program, please call us at 1-888-524-1999 today.