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Seasonal Allergies or Asthma?

Illustration of a woman surrounded by nature struggling with allergies

You may suffer from allergies year-round, or you may have serious bouts of seasonal allergies. It’s important to pay attention to and understand your symptoms so that you can correctly diagnose and treat your problem. After trial and error, and then multiple visits to the doctor, many patients find out that they actually have allergy-induced asthma. If this is the case, a simple antihistamine will probably not help.

Common Allergy Symptoms

Many people struggle with allergies. In fact, more than 50 million Americans experience allergy symptoms each year, and they’re the sixth leading cause of chronic illness—including asthma.

You may have allergies if you experience:

  • Itchy, swollen, or watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Skin rashes and hives

If you have these symptoms due to seasonal allergies or another type of allergic reaction, you will generally find relief through over-the-counter antihistamines. However, if your symptoms are severe, persistent, and aren’t helped by medicines, then you may have a bigger problem.

Common Asthma Symptoms

It may seem while in the midst of seasonal allergies, that all of your symptoms point to seasonal changes, a mold in your broom closet, or the particular pollution in your neighborhood or city. However, your symptoms may actually point to a serious problem.

You may have asthma if you experience:

  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Wheezing/whistling during inhale or exhale
  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing at night or early in the morning

You may have gone your whole life without a hint of asthma, or years without a severe asthma attack, but allergies can worsen asthma and even trigger it when it’s never previously occurred.

Allergic Asthma

Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting 90 percent of children with asthma and 50 percent of adults with asthma. While allergies can cause anaphylaxis in some patients, it can worsen allergy symptoms, or trigger them, in others. It may be as simple as cockroach feces, pollen or fresh-cut grass, or even a new pet. Allergic asthma can also be triggered by irritants that do not cause an allergic reaction at all, such as smoke from a grill, air pollution, perfumes, or even cold air.

If you experience symptoms consistent with allergic, or allergy-induced asthma, you should talk with your doctor about an allergy panel. The best way to prevent a serious asthma attack is to avoid irritants and allergies completely. It could be what saves your life as you move through this year whether exercising at the gym, grilling with the family, or vacuuming the carpet. 

Avoid Allergens

It’s easier said than done, yes, but there’s nothing easy about a sudden allergy attack. Start by planning your life so that you aren’t exposing yourself to extra allergens. Wear a mask when dusting or vacuuming—especially when emptying the vacuum canister or filter. Stay inside when seasonal allergies are at their worst (during fall and spring). Change A/C filters, clean bedding, and vacuum carpets regularly. You may decide to go one step further and invest in an air purifier or even remove your carpeting altogether! Prevent mold and mildew by using a dehumidifier and use fans in the home.

It may seem like a lot of work but putting your health first is the first step toward preventing a serious reaction.