Prevention and Wellness

Asthma and Allergies

Premier HealthNet doctors answer Frequently Asked Questions on Asthma and Allergies.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It’s long-term problem where tiny airways in your lungs get even smaller (constrict), fill with mucus and swell. You may have trouble breathing because less air can get through your lungs and you get less oxygen. No one knows what causes asthma.

What are Asthma Symptoms?

Asthma symptoms include:

  • Coughing (especially at night)
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low energy
  • Feeling lightheaded

Even if you have mild asthma symptoms, see your health care provider. Asthma can permanently damage your lungs if it’s not treated – even if you don’t have trouble breathing.

Dr. Alappatt explains: What is Asthma and its Symptoms?  

 

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When do spring allergy symptoms typically begin?

Dr. Alappatt discusses when spring allergy symptoms usually begin. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Spring allergies are a form of seasonal allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (ACAAI).

Spring allergies begin in February and last through early summer in most parts of the United States. If winter has mostly mild temperatures, plants can begin to pollinate early, causing spring allergies to start earlier than usual, according to the ACAAI.

Talk to your doctor for more information about spring allergies.

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How is Asthma Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing asthma is talking to your doctor about your symptoms and your health. Your doctor can diagnose asthma based on your health history, a physical exam and test results, and your family history.

  • Medical and family histories – Your doctor will ask you about any family history of asthma and allergies. Be sure to share what triggers your asthma symptoms and other health conditions that could cause problems with managing your asthma.
  • Physical exam – Your doctor will listen to your breathing for signs of asthma, including wheezing, and see if you have a runny nose or swollen nasal passages.
  • Diagnostic and other tests – You may have a spirometry test, which checks your lung function by measuring how much air you can breathe in and out and how fast you can blow air out. Your doctor might also recommend allergy testing, a test to measure the sensitivity of your airways, a chest X-ray or an EKG.

For more information about how asthma is diagnosed, talk with your doctor.

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Is asthma something that is genetic, environmental or both?

Asthma is a chronic disease in which your airways get inflamed and cause you to feel tightness when trying to breathe, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Though it is not completely clear whether asthma is caused by genetics or the environment, it seems as though both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to the likelihood of having the disease, according to the NIH.

The factors that are most likely to cause you to have asthma, according to the NIH, included:

  • An inherited likelihood to develop allergies
  • Certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Contact with airborne allergens and viral infections in infancy and early childhood
  • Parents who have asthma

Talk with your physician for more information about what causes asthma.

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What are the different treatment options for spring allergies?

Dr. Alappatt discusses different treatment options for spring allergies. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Spring allergies can be treated by a variety of over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and immunotherapy options. According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), those options include:

  • Allergy shots – Also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), these have been used for more than 100 years to give people allergy relief. They work by using a series of shots to build up a resistance to the allergen and then to maintain that resistance.
  • Antihistamines – These can be taken by mouth or in a nasal spray. They help reduce itchy eyes, itchy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and nasal stuffiness.
  • Cromolyn sodium – This is a nasal spray that helps to block chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, which include histamine and leukotrienes.
  • Decongestants – These can be taken by mouth or as a nasal spray. They help shrink the lining within the nasal passages, which helps to reduce nasal stuffiness. These are to be used for short-term help, and can cause more problems when used for too long.
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists – The prescription medication montelukast is an example of these. They block chemical messengers (not including histamine) that lead to allergic reactions.
  • Nasal corticosteroids – These sprays help block allergic reactions. They contain anti-inflammatory medicines and are often thought to be the most effective medication for allergic rhinitis and nasal congestion.
  • Sublingual immunotherapy – There are three types of these under-the-tongue tablets used to treat grass and ragweed allergies with sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). These can be used as an alternative to allergy shots.

Making small lifestyle changes also can help manage springtime allergies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS). Some of those changes could include:

  • Avoid mowing the lawn and raking leaves, which can stir up pollen and mold
  • Change your clothes once you come inside from spending time outside
  • Don’t hang linens or clothing outside to dry
  • Keep windows and doors closed in the house and car
  • Limit time outside when allergen counts – such as pollen or ragweed – are high
  • Use the air conditioner in your home and car because it filters the air before putting it into your breathing space
  • wash your face and hair after being outside

For more information about spring allergy treatments, talk with your doctor.

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How does warmer weather that lingers into fall affect allergy sufferers?

Though warm weather that continues into the fall might seem like a nice way to stretch out the summer, it has lead to problems for allergy sufferers.

When warm weather lingers into fall, the unseasonably warm temperatures can make rhinitis (also known as hay fever) last longer, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site   Icon (ACAAI).

Also, when the humidity stays high, mold spores can be released in the air, adding to outdoor allergens, according to the ACAAI. Dry, windy weather also adds to spreading mold spores around.

Talk to your doctor for more information about allergies from warm weather summer months lasting into fall.

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What is ragweed, and how does it affect people who are allergic to it?

Ragweed is one major cause of outdoor allergies in the U.S.

Ragweed refers to a variety of soft-stemmed weeds that grow in many parts of the country. They are tough, hardy, and able to thrive in many places – especially in the east and Midwest, according to the

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America’s New England ChapterOff Site Icon (AAFA).

Ragweed typically only lives for one season, but each plant can make up to a billion pollen grains, according to the AAFA. The ragweed flowers release the pollen after the middle of summer.

Warm, breezy days with low humidity are ideal for ragweed flowers to release pollen, which travels by air, according to the AAFA.

People can develop an allergy to ragweed pollen, which often is referred to as “hay fever.” According to the AAFA, hay fever symptoms include:

  • Asthma symptoms, such as chronic cough, difficulty breathing, and wheezing
  • Headache
  • Irritated eyes
  • Itching ears
  • Itching throat
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Sneezing

Though there is no cure for a ragweed allergy, you can ease the symptoms by avoiding these plants during ragweed season as much as possible. Allergy medication and shots also can help, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site   Icon (ACAAI).

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How do leaves affect allergies?

For some people fall allergies can be just as bothersome as spring allergies.

When leaves fall from the trees, it can be more than just an eyesore. For people with allergies, raking leaves can be a major source of irritation, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site   Icon (ACAAI).

When leaves are raked – especially when wet – it can stir up pollen and mold, sending the allergens into the air and causing allergy and asthma symptoms, according to the ACAAI.

The best solution is to avoid raking, but if that is not possible, make sure to wear a NIOSH rated N95 mask to help avoid an allergic reaction, according to the ACAAI. Also, remove and wash your clothes as soon as you are back indoors.

For more information about leaves and allergies, talk with your doctor.

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How do allergy medications work?

Dr. Alappatt discusses how allergy medications work. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Different types of allergy medications work in different ways, but many work by blocking the chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The NIH states the following medications work in the following ways:

  • Allergy shots – Also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), these have been used for more than 100 years to give people long-lasting relief. They work by using a series of shots to build up a resistance to the allergen and then to maintain that resistance.
  • Antihistamines – These can be taken by mouth or in a nasal spray. They help to reduce itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, sneezing, and nasal stuffiness.
  • Cromolyn sodium – This is a nasal spray that helps to block chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, which include histamine and leukotrienes.
  • Decongestants – These can be taken by mouth or as a nasal spray. They help shrink the lining within the nasal passages, which helps to reduce nasal stuffiness. These are to be used for short-term help, and can cause more problems with ongoing use.
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists – The prescription medication montelukast is an example of these. They block chemical messengers (not including histamine) that lead to allergic reactions.
  • Nasal corticosteroids – These sprays help block allergic reactions. They contain anti-inflammatory medicines and are often thought to be the most effective medication for allergic rhinitis and nasal congestion.
  • Sublingual immunotherapy – There are three types of these under-the-tongue tablets used to treat grass and ragweed allergies with sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). These can be used as an alternative to allergy shots.

For more information about how allergy medications work, talk with your doctor.

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What Happens to Your Body When you Have an Asthma Attack?

Dr. Allen explains: What Happens to Your Body When You Have an Asthma Attack?

 

Here’s what happens when you have an asthma attack:

  • When you come into contact with a trigger – something like mold or air pollution that bothers your lungs – your airways start to react, causing the tiny muscles around them to tighten.
  • Your airways become swollen and inflamed.
  • As your airways tighten, they get narrow, so less air gets to your lungs.
  • This narrowing can also cause cells in the airways to make more mucus than usual; this thick, sticky mucus makes airways even more narrow.
  • Narrowed airways are what cause an asthma attack because so little air can pass through, making it difficult to breathe.

Talk with your doctor to understand more about what happens to your body when you have an asthma attack.

Call 911 if You Have Symptoms of a Serious Asthma Attack:

  • Call 911 right away if you have symptoms of a serious asthma attack, such as:
  • Severe trouble breathing
  • Being so out of breath you can’t finish a sentence or walk across the room
  • Lips or fingers turning blue
  • Feeling like you’re about to pass out

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What Triggers an Asthma Attack?

When you have asthma, allergens and irritants that enter your body when you breathe can bother your lungs and may trigger asthma symptoms.

Common asthma triggers include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Allergies
  • Dust mites
  • Infections (flu, colds, RSV)
  • Mold
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Pets
  • Physical exercise
  • Sinus infections
  • Smoke from burning wood or grass
  • Some medicines
  • A strong emotional response
  • Tobacco smoke

For more information about triggers of an asthma attack, talk you your doctor.

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What are Some Asthma Triggers?

Stress is a common trigger for asthma. In fact, any emotion – even laughter – can trigger asthma in some people. Crying or feeling excited can, too. If this happens to you, watch your breathing to help avoid an asthma attack.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for two seconds, then breathe out through puckered lips for four seconds.
  • Picture something soothing to help you relax and breathe slower.
  • Take your daily medicine. It’s easy to forget when you’re stressed out.

Other asthma triggers include:

  • Cold air
  • Allergies
  • Smells (such as perfumes)
  • Smoke
  • Exercise

If you have asthma, make sure you know what triggers it.

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Can Your Surroundings Trigger an Asthma Attack?

Asthma attacks can be brought on by what’s around you, indoors and outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control provides tips on managing some of these triggers:

Outdoor triggers:

  • Air pollution from cars, factories and more can trigger asthma attacks. Follow daily air quality forecasts and plan your activities when pollution levels are lowest.
  • Cold weather can make asthma worse, so bundle up if you’ll be out in the cold.

Indoor triggers:

  • Furry pets can trigger asthma attacks; bathe pets weekly and keep them outside as much as possible.
  • Mold (breathing it in) can trigger an attack; use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to help keep humidity at low level (no higher than 50 percent).
  • Dust mites are tiny bugs found in every home and can trigger asthma attacks. You can help decrease dust mites by covering your mattress and pillows, washing bedding on the hottest water setting and avoiding down-filled pillows and blankets.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about managing triggers in your surroundings that can cause asthma attacks.

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What should someone do once they have been diagnosed with asthma?

Dr. Block discusses what to do once you have been diagnosed with asthma. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to start off by working with your physician to create an asthma action plan, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Having an asthma action plan, according to the NIH, will help guide you on how to:

  • Avoid asthma triggers
  • Respond to symptoms
  • Seek care when needed
  • Take your medications
  • Track your asthma control

Your doctor can also help you work to treat other conditions that can interfere with managing your asthma and find a way to be physically active without having asthma issues, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what to do after being diagnosed with asthma.

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What is an asthma action plan?

Dr. Block discusses asthma action plans. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Once you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to work with your doctor to create a personalized asthma action plan.

An asthma action plan, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP), is a set of written instructions to tell you:

  • How to control environmental factors that make asthma worse
  • How to handle asthma attacks
  • How to take your medications
  • What to do in an emergency

The plan should also provide you with needed school authorization forms. It is a great guide to help make sure you are doing everything you can to manage your asthma.

For more information about what an asthma action plan is talk with your doctor.

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Who should be given a copy of a child’s asthma action plan at school?

Having an asthma action plan for your child is important, and making sure copies are in the hands of the right people is essential.

You should make sure to give a copy of your son’s or daughter’s asthma action plan to school staff, including his or her teacher, school nurse, gym teacher, coaches and the school office, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Keeping your child’s school informed about their asthma triggers – things that make the asthma worse – and how to care for the asthma is the best way to make sure they have the support they need while at school, according to the NIH.

For more information about who needs to have a copy of your child’s asthma action plan, talk with your doctor.

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What is allergy-induced asthma?

Allergic asthma – also known as allergy-induced asthma – is asthma that is triggered to act up by an allergic reaction, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaOff Site Icon (AAFA).

Breathing in an environmental allergen, such as pollen or ragweed, is an example of how allergic asthma can act up.

Allergic asthma is an obstruction and swelling of the airway that makes it hard to breathe right, according to the AAFA. It can be partially reversible using medication.

The most common form of asthma, allergic asthma, affects more than half of the 20 million Americans who have the condition, according to the AAFA.

Talk to your doctor for more information about allergy-induced asthma.

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How often do allergies and asthma appear in the same person?

Dr. Block discusses how often a person has both allergies and asthma. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Suffering from both allergies and asthma is a common issue because many times the triggers that cause allergy symptoms also can cause asthma symptoms, according to the World Allergy OrganizationOff Site Icon (WAO).

The symptoms of both can be similar, with allergies causing inflammation of the upper part of the airway and asthma causing inflammation of the lower part of the airway, according to the WAO. Some people also can have asthma along with an allergy that causes a skin reaction instead of a breathing issue.

Talk to your doctor for more information about having both allergies and asthma.

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Does stress trigger asthma?

Stress can definitely trigger asthma. In fact, any emotions – even laughter – can trigger asthma in some people. Crying or feeling excited can, too. If this happens to you, pay attention to your breathing to help avoid an asthma attack.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for two seconds, then breathe out through puckered lips for four seconds.
  • Picture something soothing to help you relax and breathe slower.
  • Take your daily medicine. It’s easy to forget when you’re stressed out.

Other triggers include cold air, allergies, smells (such as perfumes), smoke and exercise. If you have asthma, it’s important to know your triggers.

Dr. Reitz discusses stress and asthma.  Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Learn more about keeping asthma triggers in check

Is it Safe to Exercise With Asthma?

If you have asthma, exercise can help you feel better and improve your breathing. It’s usually safe to exercise if your asthma is under control – meaning you don’t need to use your inhaler more than once or twice a week.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, use your inhaler about 15 to 20 minutes before exercising. Keep it handy during exercise in case you have problems. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you start an exercise program.

Good activities for exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Swimming – Moist, warm air is less likely to trigger asthma flare-ups. Check with your doctor if you’re sensitive to chlorine fumes.
  • Exercising indoors – walk inside on a treadmill or find another indoor activity if cold weather could trigger an attack.
  • Yoga – builds strength and flexibility, and is relaxing, which helps calm breathing and lower stress.

Dr. Alappatt explains: Is it Safe to Exercise with Asthma?   

 

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How do Allergies Affect Asthma?

Many people with asthma also have allergies. Allergies can trigger an asthma attack or make it worse. Some asthma treatments also help allergy symptoms.

If your allergies make your asthma worse, talk to your doctor about treating them. Ask about allergy testing or skin and blood tests to help pinpoint what you’re allergic to. This can help you control your allergy triggers. If your allergies are severe, your doctor might suggest allergy shots (immunotherapy).

What food allergies are more prevalent than others?

There are more than 160 foods that can cause people to have an allergic reaction, and everyone with food allergies can react differently, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Off Site Icon.

Of those foods, however, there are eight foods that have been identified by the U.S. Congress in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA)Off Site Icon as “major food allergens,” according to the FDA.

Those eight foods are:

  • Crustacean shellfish (such as crab, lobster and shrimp)
  • Eggs
  • Fish (such as bass, cod and flounder)
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

The FALCPA requires that these eight foods – and any ingredients created from them – be listed on food labels, according to the FDA.

Food allergies can be dangerous to people’s health if not managed carefully or if people are unaware certain ingredients are contained in the foods they eat, according to the FDA, which is why it is so important to label all foods.

For more information about common food allergies, talk with your doctor.

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Why are food allergies more severe for some people than others?

Dr. Aldstadt discusses the severity of food allergies. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Like all allergies, food allergies do not affect every person the same way.

Some people with a peanut allergy, for example, only have a reaction when they eat peanut products. However other people have such severe peanut allergies they cannot even be in the same room with peanut products without having an allergic reaction, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Off Site Icon.

An individual with a food allergy also can have a different allergic reaction to the same allergen each time they encounter it. For example, someone who is allergic to milk might react differently to it depending on whether is it plain or mixed and cooked into a recipe. Some people also outgrow allergies over time, while others’ allergies get worse, according to the NIH.

For more information about differences in the severity of reaction to food allergies, talk with your physician.

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How are food allergies treated?

Once you are certain you have an allergy to a specific food, there are a variety of ways to treat the allergy, depending on the severity of your allergic reaction.

The best was to treat a food allergy is to do your best to avoid the food, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)Off Site Icon. It is important to read food labels and to learn additional names for foods you are allergic to.

When eating out, don’t feel like you are causing a problem by asking what ingredients are in a dish you want to order. It is better for your waiter to check with the chef than it is for you to eat a food or spice that will cause you to have an allergic reaction, according to the ACAAI.

If you eat a food you are allergic to, the ACAAI says you should have a prepared action plan you created with your doctor that you can follow. That plan might include taking an over-the-counter allergy-fighting medication or a prescribed shot of epinephrine.

If you are having an allergic reaction more severe that what your plan outlines for you to manage on your own, or if you have used an epinephrine shot, you should have someone take you to the hospital or call 9-1-1 for immediate care, according to the ACAAI.

Talk to your physician to create an action plan for your allergies or to discuss treatment options that will work best for you.

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What new technologies are available in aiding the treatment of allergy sufferers?

Dr. Aldstadt discusses new technology available to help allergy sufferers. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

In today’s world where almost all information is available at your fingertips, there are a variety of ways technology can help you manage your food and seasonal allergies.

Try typing “food allergies” into the application store on your phone or tablet and see what pops up. There are a variety of free and low priced apps that can help you identify food allergens in different foods, according to the American Academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

You can also search for apps that will help tell you the day’s pollen count or help chart your asthma measurements, according to the AAAAI.

For more information about technology that can help you monitor your allergies, talk with your physician

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What are Seasonal Allergies and Symptoms?

Seasonal allergies are your body’s response to triggers (allergy-causing substances known as allergens) like pollen and mold. If you have allergies, your body has a chemical response to these allergens. It releases histamines, which cause your sneezing and other symptoms.

Allergy Symptoms Include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Rashes or hives
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy throat and/or ears

Seasonal allergies are common in southwest Ohio. You may have spring allergies (trees and grass are common triggers) or fall allergies (usually triggered by ragweed). Some people have symptoms during both seasons. If you’re sensitive to dust or molds, you may have symptoms all year long.

Nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis) can lead to sinus, eye and ear problems, nasal growths (polyps) and asthma.

Dr. Alappaatt explains: What are Seasonal Allergies and Symptoms?  

 

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Is it Allergies or a Cold?

Allergies and a cold can have some of the same symptoms, like a runny or stuffy nose and sneezing, but some differences may help you figure out which one you have, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Allergy Symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sometimes feeling tired and weak
  • Sometimes a cough
  • Sometimes a sore throat

Allergies last for weeks at a time, unlike a cold, which usually lasts from three to 14 days. You don’t have a fever or achiness with allergies, according to the NIH.

Cold Symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Sometimes feeling tired and weak
  • Some achiness
  • Occasionally a fever
  • Very rarely or never itchy eyes

Dr. Allen explains: Learn more about the Is it Allergies or a Cold?

 

Talk to your health care provider to find out more about the difference between a cold and allergies.

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How Can I Tell if My Child has Seasonal Allergies?

You child’s allergy symptoms may be much like cold symptoms: Runny nose, clear drainage, sneezing, itchy eyes or throat. If your child has a cold, he or she may feel sick and not have much energy. But with allergies, he or she may feel fine except for the itchy eyes and runny nose.

You may also be able to tell if it’s allergies from dark circles under the eyes (called allergic shiners) or a crease on the nose from frequent rubbing (known as allergic salute). If your child has symptoms that last a long time – or that go away for a few days and then return – it could be allergies instead of a cold. Parents play a role, too. If one parent has allergies, your child has about a 50 percent chance of having allergies. If both parents have allergies, there’s about a 75 percent chance your child will, too.

What Can Make Allergies Worse

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Smoke from wood stoves or fireplaces
  • Perfume
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Car exhaust

Call Your Health Care Provider if Your Child has Any of These Symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent headaches
  • Greenish or yellowish drainage from the nose

Watch the video or read the transcript.

 

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What are Some Tips for Keeping Seasonal Allergies Under Control?

Dr. Allen explains: What are Some Tips for Keeping Seasonal Allergies Under Control?  

 

If you have allergies, you may have a runny, stuffy nose, as well as feeling “hazy,” for weeks at a time.

You can control allergy symptoms by taking over-the-counter medicines or those prescribed by your doctor.

Some medicines that can help relieve allergy symptoms include:

  • Eye drops
  • Nasal spray
  • Pills
  • Injections

You may have fewer allergy symptoms if you avoid allergens as much as possible, such as:

  • Dust
  • Animal dander
  • Mold
  • Pollen and other outdoor allergens

If you’re having allergy symptoms, talk to your doctor about what you can do to help control them.

What are pollen and mold, and where do each originate?

Dr. Aldstadt discusses pollen and mold and where they each come from. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Pollen and mold can both have a harsh effect on people who suffer from environmental allergies.

Pollen are tiny grains that come from plants and are needed to fertilize plants, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Plants often rely on insects to transport their pollen, and some pollen is spread around easily by the wind, according to the AAAAI.

Molds are tiny fungi that can be found almost anywhere, both indoors and outside, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They grow best in damp, humid places.

Mold creates spores that can float through the air like pollen, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Talk to your physician for more information about pollen and mold and where both come from.

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What steps should an allergy sufferer take when pollen or mold counts are high?

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, it is important to check the pollen and mold counts, especially if your plans include outdoor activities, according to the American College or Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

The ACAAI recommends that if you have allergies, you avoid pollen and mold by:

  • Avoid drying clothes outside, use a clothes dryer instead
  • Clean and replace home air filters often
  • Keep windows closed as much as possible, both at home and in the car
  • Limit your time outside when counts are high
  • Shower after coming inside from doing yard work
  • Take off your outside work clothes when you go back inside your house to control spreading pollen on your clothes
  • Use an air conditioner that cleans, cools and dries air
  • Wear a dust mask (which can be found at a hardware store) to do outside jobs, like cutting the grass or raking leaves

For more steps to take when pollen and mold counts are high, talk with your doctor.

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Can Seasonal Allergies be Cured?

There’s no cure for allergies, but over-the-counter or prescription medicines can help relieve most of the symptoms.

You Can Get Common Allergy Medicines Without a Prescription

  • Antihistamines stop the symptom-causing histamines (the chemical your body sends out when it reacts to allergens) to help stop or prevent sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.
  • Decongestants open your airways, relieve sinus pressure and reduce swelling in your nose.
  • Saline sprays, rinses and gels help soothe and moisturize your nose, and clean out mucus and crust.

If over-the-counter products don’t help, your doctor may prescribe stronger or different types of medicines. Your doctor may also suggest you see an allergist or an ear, nose and throat specialist who can do allergy testing to see if allergy shots (immunotherapy) could give you some relief. Allergy shots help your body adjust to allergens a little at a time to reduce your symptoms.

Watch the video or read the transcript.

 

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How Does Smoking Affects Allergies?

Smoking can:

  • Cause you to cough more and produce more mucus (phlegm), especially if you already have allergies.
  • Weaken your immune system, so if you’re a smoker, your allergies may be more severe.

You may find your eyes and lungs are irritated, and your nose is stuffy.

People with allergies and nasal congestion who are exposed to tobacco smoke are six times more likely to have persistent ear infections, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Your family doctor can tell you more about how smoke can affect allergies.

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How Tobacco Smoke Affects Your HealthOff Site Icon

What Are the Most Common Inhalers That Are Prescribed, and What Are They Used For?

 

Inhalers are frequently used by asthma sufferers to relieve the feeling of having to gasp for air, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (AAAAI).

The most common type of inhaler is a beta-agonist, which is also known as a rescue inhaler, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

A rescue inhaler is used for quick relief to open the airways and help you feel like you can breathe easier in the short-term, according to the AAAAI.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the most common type of inhalers.

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What is a Rescue Inhaler, and When Should it Be Used?

A rescue inhaler is one used to provide quick relief when asthma symptoms flare up, making it feel like it’s hard to breathe, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

A rescue inhaler is used for short-term relief, but doesn’t improve any long-term asthma issues, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon(AAAAI).

Symptoms that would cause someone to want to use their rescue inhaler would include wheezing and shortness of breath.

Talk to your doctor for more information about rescue inhalers and when they should be used.

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What Determines if Someone Needs an Inhaler?

If you are concerned about shortness of breath, wheezing, or other breathing difficulties, it’s important to visit your primary care provider (PCP) to determine the best next step for you. 

Your PCP might do a lung function test – called spirometry. They can use the lung function results along with the symptoms you describe to determine whether or not you need an inhaler, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Your medical history and lung function test combined will help your PCP determine not only if you need an inhaler, but also what kind of inhaler and how frequently this medication should be used to control your asthma symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (AAAAI).

For more information about what determines when someone needs an inhaler, talk with your doctor.

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How are Food and Skin Allergies Diagnosed?

Dr. Allen explains: How are Food and Skin Allergies Diagnosed?

 

If you think you might have skin or food allergies, your doctor can help you find out if you do, and what specific allergies you have and how to treat them.

Finding Out if You Have Food Allergies

Your doctor may use several steps to diagnose food allergies, such as:

  • Taking your history – Tell your doctor what reaction happens when you eat the food you think you’re allergic to; let your doctor know if you take any allergy medicines.
  • Diet diary – You may be asked to keep a detailed diary of all the foods you eat and whether or not you have a reaction. This diary may help and you and your doctor find a pattern.
  • Elimination diet – Once you’ve found out what you might be allergic to, you will remove those foods from your daily diet. If you still have a reaction without these foods, your doctor will help you look for another source.
  • Skin prick test – A needle with a tiny amount of food extract is injected just under your skin’s surface on your back or lower arm. If you are allergic, there will be redness and swelling at the site of the prick.
  • Blood test – A blood sample test may be used instead of a skin prick test; results are compared to your history to see if specific food allergies are likely.

Finding Out if You Have Skin Allergies

You may get a skin rash after coming in contact with an allergy-causing substance. Allergic skin reactions can be caused by heat, immune system disorders, medicines, infections and more, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Some skin allergy conditions include:

  • Dermatitis (eczema) – If your skin comes in contact with an allergen, you can get dermatitis, which appears as red, bumpy, scaly, swollen or itchy skin.
  • Urticaria (hives) – Hives caused by an allergen can happen after coming in contact with a substance or a food that triggers your immune systems to release histamine; this causes small blood vessels to leak, which makes your skin swell.

If you’re not sure what allergen is causing your skin rash, your doctor may have you “backtrack” to see if you’ve been exposed to something new – like using a new soap or taking a new medicine.

For more information about how skin and food allergies are diagnosed, talk with your physician.

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What is a fragrance allergy?

Dr. Block discusses fragrance allergies. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A fragrance allergy is a reaction people have when they come into contact with types of smells or smell components that are irritating to them, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaOff Site Icon (AAFA).

Fragrance allergies can cause issues when you are overwhelmed by breathing in the fragrance, according to Premier HealthNet physicians. Itchy eyes, a runny nose, a cough, congestion, wheezing and shortness of breath are all symptoms of a fragrance allergy.

Fragrance allergies also can cause skin reactions, such as burning, itching and a rash, especially from cosmetics, deodorants and cleaning products, according to the AAFA.

To learn more about fragrance allergies, talk with your doctor.

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What are some symptoms of a fragrance allergy?

Fragrance allergies can cause issues when you are overwhelmed by breathing in a certain kind of fragrance, according to Premier HealthNet physicians.

Symptoms of fragrance allergy can include:

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Fragrance allergies also can cause skin reactions, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaOff Site Icon (AAFA).

Skin symptoms, according to the AAFA, could include:

  • Heat
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the symptoms of fragrance allergy.

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What are steps someone can take to reduce their exposure to fragrances?

Dr. Block discusses reducing exposure to fragrances. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The best way to reduce fragrance allergies is to get rid of or avoid the fragrances that are causing issues.

If it is a smell that is bothering you at home, try to avoid bringing the smell into your house, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

If it is at work, most employers have policies that protect people with fragrance allergies and will give you a fragrance-free space in which to work, according to PHN physicians.

If the fragrance allergy is a skin allergy that starts when you touch a certain product, do your best to avoid it, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaOff Site Icon (AAFA).

Cleaning products, cosmetics, deodorants, soaps, lotions and more – even ones that claim to be fragrance free and hypoallergenic – can cause allergic skin reactions, according to the AAFA. Testing out new products in small amounts can help you find one that works for you.

Talk to your doctor for more information about reducing exposure to fragrance allergies.

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Source: Anessa Alappatt, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; J. Douglas Aldstadt, MD, Family Physicians of Englewood; Joseph Allen, MD, Family Medicine of Vandalia; Dale Block, MD, Premier Family Care of Mason; Michael Chunn, MD, Michael A. Chunn, MD, Family Practice; Chandan Gupta, MD, Monroe Medical Center; Joseph Leithold, MD, Woodcroft Family Practice; Anne Reitz, MD, Samaritan North Family Physicians; Grenetta Ritenour, CNP, Jamestown Family Medicine; Melinda Ruff, MD, Centerville Family Medicine; Marcus Washington, MD, Premier Health Family Medicine; Mark Williams, MD, Beavercreek Family Medicine

Content Updated: July 13, 2018

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