As winter turns to spring, many of us begin to experience allergy symptoms. For those of us with asthma, springtime can feel suffocating when the allergies flare. We have a stuffy nose from allergies plus chest wheezing and tightness from asthma. While we may not be able to rid ourselves entirely of symptoms, there are several things we can do to help us with managing asthma and getting us feeling better.
Both allergies and asthma result from a triggering of the immune system. With allergies, the triggering is almost always caused by something that we have been exposed to. However, with asthma that is not always the case. Asthma attacks can be triggered by many of the same things that trigger allergies but it can also be caused by emotions, exercise, or just cold air not necessarily containing any allergens.
During the early spring, trees begin to pollinate, followed by grass and then ragweed. All of this pollen can be a trigger for those with allergies to them. For those with asthma, the resulting allergy can stimulate the reaction in our airways making asthma significantly worse. While they exist in most climates, in warmer and more humid ones, molds and fungi are commonly associated with allergies that can then trigger a worsening of asthma.
Common symptoms of allergies include: sneezing, coughing, itchy and watery red eyes, itchy nose and throat, sore throat, tiredness, stuffy nose, sinus pressure, and headache. Some of these symptoms might make you feel like you have a sinus infection, which you can read more about in our other post called "Can't Take the Pressure? How to Care for Sinus Infection or Inflammation"
Trouble breathing with chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing are the most common symptoms of an asthma attack. For those experiencing a more severe attack, the inability to breathe can lead to anxiety, dizziness, and sweating. If things continue to worsen, and oxygen levels drop, an asthmatic could become confused, pass out, or in severe circumstances die. Dealing with asthma quickly can help prevent things from spiraling out of control.
Yes, asthma is usually broken into intermittent asthma and persistent asthma. Intermittent(coming-and-going) type of asthma often has long periods in between asthma attacks where there are no symptoms at all.
Persistent asthma is when there are symptoms that occur more than two days a week, when you awaken at night with asthma symptoms more than three times per month, when you use your inhaler(if you have one) more than 2 times per week, or when you have limited ability to carry out normal activity because of your asthma. Persistent asthma is also graded by severity levels of mild, moderate, and severe.
Some people consider moving to a different location when they are experiencing bad allergies. This may help some people but does not help many because allergens are present nearly everywhere.
However, several other lifestyle changes may be helpful:
Treatment of allergies may help decrease some of your overall symptoms from the allergies but they are NOT treatments that should be used for managing asthma. Many people do experience allergy symptom relief with antihistamines, decongestants, and steroid nasal sprays. Some people. get relief from getting allergy shots which help them develop tolerance to the allergens. But if you have asthma, the medications used to treat it are different than what you would use for allergies.
The three most common categories of medications used to manage asthma are:
There are several other types of medications used to treat asthma for longer-term or harder-to-treat asthma but these are much less commonly used than the three categories above.
The diagnosis of asthma is usually initially made by a good history. There are several physical exam findings and tests that can also be used to confirm the diagnosis. On occasion, it may be necessary to get blood work or pulmonary function testing done. Sometimes, the signs and symptoms might suggest other causes that require a different type of work-up. Examples include X-rays, Echocardiograms, or CT-scans for concerns about pneumonia, cancer, blood clots in the lungs, or heart failure.
If you are having symptoms you think might be asthma, get seen by a doctor for an evaluation. The most common types of doctors who can help you make the diagnosis are primary care doctors, pediatricians, urgent care and emergency doctors, and lung specialists(pulmonologists).
Yes. While it may be better to be seen in-person if you do not already have a diagnosis of asthma, seeing an online doctor can get a good history about your symptoms which is the most important part of making the diagnosis. The online doctor can also help determine if it the symptoms might be due to some other causes. With some telemedicine services, such as ours at Care on Location, any initial labs, x-rays, and other tests can also be started, depending on the patient's location.
A telemedicine service can also help you determine if you might have persistent asthma and whether or not you might benefit from being on an inhaled corticosteroid. If you would, the medical provider can send it over to a pharmacy of your choice.
Here are some of the reasons you should get seen as soon as possible:
Whether it is allergies or something else that has your asthma flaring up, a medical visit can help make sure you are on the right treatment track and managing your asthma appropriately. Don't wait until things get worse. The worse it gets, the harder it becomes to treat, and your risk of an ER visit or hospitalization increases. Go to our appointment scheduler now.