Every year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declares May to be “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.” Why May? Because it’s peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, and the perfect time to educate everyone about these diseases.
24.5 Million Americans are Affected
Asthma and allergic diseases, such as hay fever, food allergies and eczema, are common in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that asthma affects 24.5 million Americans, and more than 50 million suffer from some type of allergy.
Allergy Triggers and Treatment
Allergies are one of the most common chronic diseases. There are many types of allergies, including drug, food, insect, latex, mold, pet dander and pollen. Some allergies are seasonal and others exist year-round.
An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system identifies a substance/allergen as harmful and overreacts to it by producing antibodies. This response is called an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, hives or a rash. Other more serious symptoms, like trouble breathing and swelling in the mouth or throat, may be life threatening.
A board-certified allergist can help determine the severity and cause of the allergy problem. Treatment and advice may include avoidance of the allergen, medications (over-the-counter and prescription) and immunotherapy (allergy shots), all of which can provide effective allergy relief. Making changes to your environment can also be helpful.
Asthma Triggers and Treatment
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes the airways of the sufferer to become inflamed, making it hard for them to breathe. Asthma symptoms can appear when the sufferer is exposed to a trigger. Common asthma triggers include pollen, chemicals, extreme weather changes, smoke, dust mites, stress and exercise.
Although many people with asthma rely on medications to prevent and relieve symptoms, there are many simple things that can be done to lessen the possibility of an asthma attack. Taking steps to reduce exposure to asthma triggers is a key part of asthma control, these steps include:
- Use your HVAC system for asthma relief. Air conditioning reduces the amount of airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds that finds its way indoors. Air conditioning also lowers indoor humidity and can reduce exposure to dust mites.
- Decontaminate your decor. Minimize dust that may worsen nighttime symptoms by replacing certain items in the bedroom. For example, encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dustproof covers, and use washable curtains and blinds.
- Maintain optimal humidity. If you live in a damp climate, a dehumidifier can help.
- Prevent mold spores. Clean damp areas in the bath, kitchen and around the house to keep mold spores from developing.
- Reduce pet dander. Avoid pets with fur or feathers. Having pets regularly bathed and groomed also may reduce the amount of dander in the house.
- Clean your home regularly. Clean your home at least once a week. If you’re likely to stir up dust, wear a mask or have someone else do the cleaning.
For more information about allergy triggers and treatment options see the AAFA and the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).