We talk to Exhale’s resident Allergist Dr. Paul Detjen, M.D. about stepping up your asthma treatment with the necessary step of allergen avoidance.
To kick things off, let’s talk about treatment options I usually recommend to my patients. For my patients, treatment is generally multifaceted.
Basic Asthma Treatments
- Evaluate asthma triggers and direct treatment toward the control or removal of those triggers. In some cases, this warrants making changes in the environment. This is especially relevant if allergens are present in your home or at work.
- Lessen the inflammation and hyper-reactivity of the airway through medication and other means.
- Treat chronic sinusitis if it exists and eliminate acid reflux.
- Get a flu vaccine every fall.
- Get allergy shots. Immunotherapy can markedly decrease symptoms and need for long term medicines.
What are allergens?
According to the American Academy of Allergists and Immunologists (AAAAI), an allergen is “a usually harmless substance capable of triggering a response that starts in the immune system and results in an allergic reaction.”
Further explaining “For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. The immune system responds by releasing chemicals that typically cause symptoms in the nose, throat, eyes, ears, skin or roof of the mouth. In addition to pollen, other common allergens include dust mites, animal dander, mold, medications, insect venoms and various foods.”
Allergen avoidance – what’s it all about?
Knowing if and to what you are allergic can help you take appropriate measures in your home to lessen your exposure to allergens. This in turn helps to decrease your asthma symptoms.
For instance – if your asthma symptoms are chronically triggered by animal dander or feathers, the best treatment is obvious – removal of the source. Neither medications nor allergy injections can serve as a true substitute for the removal of allergens. So try to remove your allergens when it is reasonably possible. Some allergens, such as house dust mites or mold, are difficult to remove entirely.
Allergen Avoidance Tips and Reminders
- Cover your mattress, pillow and box spring in plastic cases, and wash your pillows, sheets and blankets weekly in hot water. This will help eliminate dust and pollen that might be lingering in your bed.
- If you are allergic to mold, take measures to lessen mold growth. These include: fix water leaks, ventilate damp areas well, and clean frequently – using a weak chlorine bleach solution as needed. Consider a dehumidifier if your basement is damp or you live in a very humid climate.
- Air conditioning may reduce the number of airborne allergens by making it easier to keep windows closed in hot weather. Central air conditioning also has the benefit of lowering the humidity in the home. Air filtration systems, if carefully selected and properly maintained, can aid some people by lessening exposure to their allergens. Purchase such equipment only if your doctor advises that the benefits will be worth the expense.
Thanks for joining us in learning more about asthma. Did we help you? We’d love to help you figure out what’s triggering your asthma. Completing an Exhale analysis will help you know for sure.
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“Allergen.” AAAAI.org. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 15 July 2016.