Managing Asthma While Fighting Seasonal Allergies – News

May is National Allergy and Asthma Month, and a UAB Respiratory and Allergy Specialist explains how to better control asthma and allergy symptoms.

Miranda Curtiss, MD, Ph.D.,
Photography: Lexi Coon
Spring and fall allergies can wreak havoc on many people. But for those living with asthma, allergies can cause a different set of problems.

Miranda Curtiss, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Alabama at the Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, says that while difficult, there are ways to manage and prevent some allergic outbreaks. while living with asthma.

She says one of the most effective and easiest ways to defend against seasonal allergies is to use nasal steroids and nasal antihistamines. Curtiss says both are well supported by evidence-based medicine that is inexpensive, highly effective, and available over the counter or by prescription.

However, if the symptoms get worse, there is another approach.

“Allergy shots can be helpful for patients with seasonal and year-round allergies,” Curtiss said. “However, this is a long-term investment that requires planning to continue treatment for three to five years for maximum benefit. Asthmatics who want to start allergy shots must first have good asthma control before starting the injections.

Curtiss adds that other ways to minimize allergy symptoms include keeping home or car windows closed and using central air conditioning or reducing exposure during peak pollen conditions.

“Changing clothes when possible and taking a shower after entering the house can also be helpful,” she said.

For allergy and asthma sufferers, daily asthma symptoms can be influenced by seasonal changes in outdoor allergens – for those allergic to pollen and mold – which themselves fluctuate with the growing season , humidity and wind, to name a few. some.

Indoor allergens (mites, molds, cockroaches and pets) tend to be present year-round, but can also fluctuate depending on factors that affect outdoor allergens.

“Because they are perennial, it is harder to notice how much they affect asthma and allergy symptoms, compared to seasonal allergens; but they can have profound effects on asthma symptoms,” Curtiss said. “Overall, exposure to allergens appears to make allergic asthmatics more likely to have an exacerbation when they have a viral infection.”

Signs of an asthma emergency (severe flare-up) requiring urgent evaluation:

  • Difficulty speaking due to shortness of breath
  • Having to sit leaning forward; feeling jittery or restless
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • Low oxygen level
  • Allergic reaction to a food, biting insect or medication

Patients with persistent asthma are less likely to have exacerbations and poor symptom control when they regularly take their controller inhalers, according to Curtiss.

“It’s the most important way for patients to protect themselves,” she said.

If a controller inhaler is too expensive, Curtiss encourages patients to speak with their doctors and pharmacists about what’s on the formulary. Insurance forms can change over time and impact the cost of controller inhalers.

“Often there’s a less expensive option that your pharmacist can suggest,” Curtiss said.

Curtiss also points out that in general, if an asthma patient needs their rescue inhaler more than twice a day per week or needs to use their rescue inhaler more than twice at night in a month, their asthma will not is not controlled. , and they should talk to their doctor about stepping up their treatment.

“All asthma patients can protect themselves from severe exacerbations by paying attention to their symptoms every day and seeking help early in the onset of a flare-up, when they are most likely to respond to treatment,” she said. she stated. “If an asthma patient uses more than one rescue inhaler per month, this is a major red flag and requires urgent specialist assessment.”

To learn more about managing asthma, click here to book an appointment with UAB Medicine’s Asthma and COPD Clinic.

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