asthma do I have allergiesIf I Have Asthma, Do I Have Allergies Too?

Asthma – the dreaded a-word that pediatricians love to hate, and parents don’t always know how to recognize.

Even when an adult patient comes in for his own appointment, I often hear, ͞I don’t have allergies; I just have asthma.

By the end of the appointment, I discover that the patient’s symptoms have a clear seasonal pattern, and the patient has a very difficult time staying off Claritin, which is required prior to a skin test. They need Claritin every day, or their sneezing and watery eyes get bad enough to interfere with daily life.

Many people who have asthma – regardless of age – have an allergic component. Even if they only have minimal classic signs of hay fever, such as watery or itchy eyes, their asthma gets worse if they are around allergens.

Maybe they wheeze after every outdoor run in the spring (a high pollen count season). Maybe they need their rescue inhaler after volunteering at an animal shelter (a dander-rich environment). This is called allergic asthma. The same allergens that cause watery eyes and a runny nose can also trigger asthma.

There are many ways to treat it, sometimes involving medicine, but also taking proactive action. For instance, if you are allergic to animal dander, avoidance, such as not having pets in your home and changing your volunteer activity to something other than an animal shelter will significantly reduce your asthma symptoms.

If, like many people, you are allergic to animal dander and pollens, molds, and dust, getting rid of Fluffy may help your symptoms a little, but won’t cure you. The best way to manage your symptoms is using a combination of common sense avoidance (give Fluffy regular baths to reduce dander) and a good medication regimen.

Your allergist is the best person to discuss which medications are best for you. There are dozens of safe, effective asthma and allergy medications. Many parents worry about giving their children too many inhalers and pills. As long as you use the medications under the supervision of a physician, you will find that your child will be able to live a completely normal life without any adverse side effects.

Allergy and asthma medications are not addictive, and may not need to be taken year-round. There is more danger in self-medication or not following your doctor’s orders. Without fail, adults and children with asthma who don’t use their inhalers get sick more often and for longer times. They have chronic lung inflammation that prevents them from doing basic things, such as participating in recess, exercising, or climbing stairs. They may end up missing school or work for 3 weeks from what starts as a little cold. People who find a doctor they trust, and follow that doctor’s recommendations live normal lives. They don’t let asthma or allergies get in the way.

Julia Tarnovsky
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