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Asthma is a lung disease that causes your airways to tighten up, making it hard for you to breathe. Theres no cure for asthma. Even if you have asthma and feel healthy, asthma flares can happen at any time.
Most people with asthma can keep the disease under control and avoid serious health problems. If youre pregnant, its really important to work with your health care provider to manage your asthma and get medical care, if needed.
This Is What Its Like To Have Asthma During The Coronavirus Pandemic
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How do I feel emotionally? Im anxious like many people, Julie Thompson Dredge, 42, from Petersfield, tells me, when I ask how shes managing her asthma. Im living with a certain amount of dread, doing things like sorting out my will should the worst happen as I know I could be in trouble if I got coronavirus.
Many people are anxious about their health right now, but its worse for those classed as vulnerable. Back in March, the government released guidelines for those at very high risk if they were to contract coronavirus and that included people with asthma. The national charity Asthma UK is constantly updating its guidelines to make sure people are effectively managing their condition.
But whats it really like for sufferers?
Thompson Dredge was diagnosed at 18 the first week she went away to uni, when she was hospitalised and has managed the condition ever since. In the past shes dealt with bad flare ups, A& E and ICU visits due to her symptoms.
Its under control at the moment, she says, but the pandemic has meant Im ultra vigilant about keeping on top of my medication: taking it twice daily, making sure I have three months supply at home, and its also made me really conscious about not going out.
Blame Climate Change For This Summers Bad Allergy Season
Allergic man blowing on wipe in a park on spring season a sunny day
If you’ve felt like your seasonal allergies are worse this year, you’re not alone. Higher temperatures are linked with longer tree and grass pollen seasons.
According to a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, temperature increases in northern California are worsening pollen-related allergies, while precipitation changes are associated with more mold spores in the air.
“Climate change is really a problem for health, and we are living and breathing the effects of climate change now,” said the study’s senior author, Kari Nadeau, professor of medicine and of pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine.
Nadeau, according to a news release, became interested in the subject because she noticed that patients said their seasonal allergies were getting worse.
“As an allergist, it is my duty to follow the pollen counts, and I was noticing that the start date of the tree pollen season was earlier every year,” Nadeau said. “My patients were complaining, and I would say, ‘This is such a tough year,’ but then I thought, wait, I’m saying that every year.”
While the study is local to northern California, the trend tracks across the United States.
Last year, masks coincidentally provided some relief for allergy sufferers. Pollen grains range in size from 200 microns to 10 microns, and masks were able to block some of them out when people stepped outside.
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Does Desert Weather Stop Seasonal Allergies
This is mostly a myth, with an element of truth to it. It used to be fairly common advice for allergy-sufferers to move to the desert. With their hot, dry climates, deserts are free from a lot of the usual suspects that cause seasonal allergies like ragweed and grass. However, apparently everyone listened. Desert communities like Las Vegas and Phoenix now feature many of the same allergenic plants found elsewhere.
You still may get some relief in a drier climate, though. More remote desert areas can have lower pollen counts, though some people are allergic to desert plants like sagebrush and Russian thistle. You may get some relief from dust, too. Scientists from North Carolina studied different areas around the U.S. for dust mites, the microscopic pests responsible for many indoor allergies. They found that the Great Plains and Mountain West regionsdrier than the coastsproduced fewer dust mites.
Treatment For Asthma From Pollen Allergies
If you have asthma caused by pollens, your doctor will prescribe the correct medication and help you to develop a plan to manage your asthma. Make sure you follow your asthma action plan.Asthma can be well controlled with the appropriate medication in almost all people. The main types of medication are:
- relievers that act quickly to relax the muscles around the airways this is the medication used during an asthma attack
- preventers that slowly make the airways less sensitive to allergy triggers and reduce inflammation inside the airways these are taken daily
- combination therapies with preventers containing two different medications.
If you have an asthma attack, follow your asthma action plan. In case of emergency, call triple zero and ask for an ambulance. Tell the operator that someone is having an asthma attack.The signs of an emergency include when the person:
- finds it very difficult to breathe
- is unable to speak comfortably or if their lips are turning blue
- has symptoms that get worse very quickly
- is getting little or no relief from their reliever inhaler.
While waiting for the ambulance, give four puffs of reliever medication every four minutes.
Ragweed: The Prime Cause Of Fall Allergies
Many plant varieties can cause hay fever, but the 17 varieties of ragweed that grow in North America pose the biggest threat. Three out of four people who are allergic to pollen are allergic to ragweed.
A hardy annual, ragweed thrives just about anywhere turf grasses and other perennials havenât taken root along roads and riverbanks, in vacant lots, and so on. Over the course of a single year, one ragweed plant can produce a staggering one billion grains of pollen. And it doesnât fall harmlessly to the ground. It floats on the breeze. Pollen has been found hundreds of miles out to sea and two miles up into the atmosphere.
Given the profusion of pollen, is there anything hay fever sufferers can do to limit their misery?
Conventional wisdom says that hay fever sufferers should stay indoors during morning hours, because pollen counts are highest then. Not so, says Neil Kao, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. âIâve reviewed 50 years of medical literature on this, and there is simply no proof that hay fever sufferers can minimize their symptoms by staying indoors or going outdoors at certain times of day. This is a myth that even many general physicians believe.â
But experts say there are effective ways to curb symptoms of hay fever, including avoidance strategies and if thatâs not enough medical therapy. Here are six proven strategies:
1. Make Your Home a Pollen-Free Haven
2. Wear a Mask
Spring Vs Fall Allergies
There is a stark difference between noticing the presence of allergens in the spring and the fall.
The switch from winter to spring is more noticeable. Temperatures rise above freezing and snow begins to melt, plants begin to blossom and bud, and there is more greenery. Because of the prominent changes in nature, more people seem apt to notice the abundance of grass and tree pollens.
There is a more subtle transition from summer to fall, with temperatures cooling down more gradually. The ease of transition disguises the change and the introduction of fall allergens.
In spring and summer, we have trees and grasses dominating the pollen season, Dr. Sanchez-Tejera said. That has tapered off and we have entered a new season of pollen, which is more centered around weeds.
Aside from those differences in perception, the symptoms are mostly similar. Some of those may include:
- Runny or itchy nose
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Allergy Forecast: A Bad Year For Everyone
Like taxes, allergy season is one of those things you just cant avoid. In fact, due to climate change, it may be getting worse. Warmer temperatures lead to more pollen production, so 2021 may be the most intense allergy season yet. And due to COVID-19 quarantine, children may especially have a rough year.
When is allergy season?
It starts in the spring and continues until the fall, but different allergens, the substances that trigger allergies, appear at different times.
: As spring begins, tree pollen is the top allergen, followed by weeds and grasses. In some parts of Maryland, its not unusual to see cars covered by the itchy stuff.
May to July: In May, all the trees, grass and weeds gang up to pump out allergens, making it a bad time for allergy sufferers. This is the start of peak allergy season, which continues until July.
: Enter ragweed, a common flowering plant. Ragweed is the leading cause of seasonal allergies, with 75% of all sufferers allergic to it.
With temperatures falling and plants starting to go dormant, the air starts to clear, bringing an end to outdoor allergy season. Now its possible to breathe a sigh of relief without coughing.
See the Interactive Allergy Forecaster for allergy conditions where you live.
COVID-19 and childrens allergies
Surviving allergy season
If your or your childs allergy symptoms are severe or continue a long time, your health care provider may be able to help or refer you to an allergist.
Get Seasonal Allergy Relief No Matter Where You Live
In the spring, the warm weather will bring people outdoors to face one of the seasons biggest problems: tree pollen. Grass Pollen follows later in spring into summer. Then in the late summer and early fall, weed pollen especially ragweed pollen can make you miserable.
There are also options available to prevent or treat allergy symptoms:
- Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medicines such as antihistamines
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays
- Immunotherapy allergy shots or tablets for long-term treatment to reduce how severe your allergic reactions are
Talk with your doctor before allergy seasons begin to discuss which treatment is right for you.
The Impact of COVID-19
In 2020, fewer people were affected by pollen allergies. When the year started, experts thought weather and pollen would have significant effects. But by the spring, COVID-19 restrictions kept people inside more. This led to less pollen exposure. Children felt the least impact from seasonal allergies due to closed schools and less time spent outdoors.
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Choosing The Right Allergy Medication
Allergy medications can greatly reduce your symptoms, but what medications should you be taking?
The answer depends on the severity of your symptoms and to what exactly youre allergic, says allergy and asthma specialist Dr. Reichmuth.
For mild seasonal allergies, over the counter medications usually do the trick. But if you feel like your allergies are getting worse year after year and your usual OTC medications are losing their effectiveness, it might be time to see an allergist.
An allergist can help you create an effective allergy management plan based on your symptoms and how long they last.
What Can I Do If My Allergy Meds Aren’t Workingor My Allergies Are Getting Worse
If you’re already taking OTC allergy meds , allergy shots, a.k.a. allergen immunotherapy, make your immune system less reactive to allergens , and for some people, they can even induce a cure, says Dr. Parikh.
By giving small increasing doses of what you are allergic to, you train the immune system to slowly stop being as allergic, she says. This is the best way to address allergies, as it targets the underlying problem and builds your immunity to a specific allergen.
The downside? Allergy shots are a bit of a time commitment. You’ll need to get them once a week for six to eight months, then once a month for a minimum of two years, says Dr. Parikh. You need to be a little bit patient, too, because it can take about six months to start feeling better . But a life without allergies? Sounds worth it to me.
Are Asthma Medicines Safe When Youre Breastfeeding
Asthma medicines do get into your breast milk, but the amounts are very low and are safe for the baby. If you take high doses of certain asthma medicines, like theophylline, your baby may become irritable or have trouble sleeping. To help prevent this, take your asthma medicines 3 or 4 hours before the next feeding. Your provider and your babys provider can help you adjust your medicine schedule so you and your baby can get the health benefits of breastfeeding.
Last reviewed: November, 2013
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When They Get Worse
Some people find that their allergies worsen over time. That’s especially true of allergies to foods, latex, or bee stings, which can result in more serious reactions with each exposure.
Other things also make a big difference. All it takes is a heavy pollen season, or a new job in a moldy building, for allergies to flare up.
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How Is Asthma Diagnosed
Asthma can be hard to diagnose. To find out if you have asthma, your health care provider takes your health history, does a physical exam and listens to your breathing.
You also may get a lung function test called spirometry. This is a test that checks how well your lungs work. During the test, you take a deep breath and exhale into a machine called a spirometer. This machine measures the amount of air you breathe in and out. It also measures how fast you can breathe. When youre pregnant, normal changes in your body can make you short of breath. This test can help your provider know if shortness of breath is a common complication of pregnancy or if its caused by asthma.
Herbal Medicines And Allergies
Asteraceae is a family of flowering plants, including many common species, and some are used in herbal medicines. Pollen from plants in this family is a common cause of hay fever, asthma and dermatitis.Plants from the Asteraceae family include:
- plants grown for their flowers chrysanthemums, dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, safflower and daisies
- edible foliage plants lettuce, safflower, chicory and artichoke
- weeds ragweed, mugwort, sagebrush, wormwood, feverfew
- plants used in some herbal medicines echinacea, dandelion, chamomile, feverfew, milk thistle and wormwood.
Echinacea can cause severe allergic reaction , asthma attacks, severe hives and swelling in some people, and this can occur when the first dose of echinacea is taken.Pollen from plants in the Asteraceae family can also cause an allergic skin reaction on contact. The pollen can be found in herbal medicines, shampoos, cosmetics and massage oils, and includes pollen from plants such as the:
Sensitisation to pollen of plants from the Asteraceae family has also been linked with allergic reactions to other substances that are similar. This is known as cross-reactivity and has caused allergic reactions to:
- plant-derived herbal medicines echinacea, royal jelly, bee pollen extracts and chamomile
- foods celery, honey, sunflower seeds, carrot, lettuce, watermelon and nuts.
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Hanging Clothes Outside To Dry
Air-drying your wet sheets, towels and other laundry outside might be tempting. It is, after all, less expensive and more energy efficient than using a dryer. But your laundry will likely also be coated in pollen after drying in the afternoon breeze since pollen easily clings to fabric. And climbing into a bed with these “spring fresh” sheets or wrapping yourself in a towel that was hung outside to dry could make your allergy symptoms worse.
How To Deal With Asthma And Fall Allergies
If pollen is a trigger for your asthma, then the fall is likely to be a challenging season for you, especially if you also have allergic rhinitis . If this is the case, youre in good company: Around 80% of adults and children who have asthma also have hay fever, as compared to 15% to 40% of the general population.
With pollen from ragweed and other allergens on the rise, you may be at an increased risk of asthma attacks in the autumn. You can mitigate this risk by preparing for the season by taking antihistamines and being especially strict about adhering to your asthma management strategies.
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Does Vitamin C Help With Allergies
A potent antioxidant, vitamin C protects your cells from damage, reduces the severity of allergic reactions and helps your body to fight infections. When taken during allergy season, vitamin C can slow down the overreaction of your body to environmental triggers by decreasing your bodys histamine production.
The Most Common Fall Allergies
Its such a pretty season, but you cant seem to stop sneezing. So what is it that youre actually allergic to?
Fall allergens are generally weeds, Dr. Aronica says. He breaks down some of the most common allergens during this time of year.
The most common fall allergen is ragweed, a member of the daisy family that starts to bloom in North America in late August and lives through autumn.
Ragweeds flowers produce significant amounts of pollen, which makes it an especially potent allergen. A single ragweed plant can release up to a billion grains of pollen!
Other seasonal weeds
Ragweed may be the primary culprit of fall allergies, but it certainly isnt the only one. Other weeds associated with allergic rhinitis include:
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