Allergies and Asthma: What To Know

With spring in full swing, allergies and asthma are important topics to think about. Here are a few things to know to help you breathe this spring.

Allergy causes and symptoms

Allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to something harmless. Your body believes it’s under attack, and your immune system kicks in. Things that cause allergies, or allergens, can include pollen, dust, animal dander, foods or things that irritate the skin.

Allergies can have any number of symptoms. Nasal allergies can cause itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; a running nose; or feeling tired. Skin allergies can result in rashes or hives. Food allergies can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Stings can cause swelling and redness where you were stung.

Any mild allergy typically goes away after exposure ends, though severe allergies can result in anaphylaxis, which affects the whole body. Symptoms are tightness of the throat, hives and itching all over, wheezing and shortness of breath and tingling of the hands, feet or scalp. Anaphylaxis is life threatening, so you should call 911 immediately if you believe you’re experiencing it.

Asthma causes and symptoms

Allergies and asthma often go hand in hand. Some 80 percent of those with asthma have some sort of airborne allergy like pollen or dander.

It’s unclear what actually causes asthma, but we know what it is. Asthma is a chronic irritation of the airways. Causes vary person to person, but in all cases, when someone with asthma comes into contact with their trigger, they get an asthma attack.

During an asthma attack, your airway narrows and might spasm. This makes it harder to breathe and forces you to cough or wheeze. Everyone’s triggers are different. If you have asthma, it’s important to know what your triggers are so you can avoid them.

Allergy and asthma treatment

Allergies can be treated by a wide variety of over the counter or prescription drugs. There are nasal sprays that help ward off the effects of pollen, eye drops that soothe dry eyes or pills that have a more overall effect. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

Meanwhile, people with asthma can typically live a healthy, normal life as long as they have the correct medication. Asthma medications typically fall into two categories: controllers, or medications that prevent attacks; or quick-relief medications, which can stop attacks that are already occurring. Your doctor will be able to tell you which is the best for you.