Asthma & Allergy Survival Tips for Older Adults

May is asthma and allergy awareness month for a reason! For most people, thoughts of spring are blooming flowers, longer days, and sunshine. But for people with asthma and allergies, spring means itchy, watery eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Fortunately, having allergies and asthma doesn’t have to mean missing out on the fun of spring. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to survive the allergy season, so you can breathe easy and enjoy spring.

Allergy Facts & Information

If you are an allergy sufferer, you know the impact seasonal allergy symptoms can have on your life. Allergies are one of the most chronic illnesses in the United States, accounting for 4 million missed work days and $8 billion in annual costs.

Simply put, an allergy is an abnormal response from the immune system to an exposure to an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Animal dander (cats, dogs, rodents)
  • Insect stings (bees, wasps, fire ants, mosquitoes)
  • Household insects (cockroaches, dust mites)
  • Mold
  • Food (nuts, shellfish, fish)

Allergy Signs & Symptoms

An allergy attack occurs when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts. The severity of symptoms during an allergy attack can vary widely. In some cases, allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Recognizing the following early signs of an allergic reaction and immediate treatment is critical to managing allergy symptoms:

  • Itchy watery eyes
  • Uncontrollable sneezing
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Ear irritation
  • Hives
  • Throat closing
  • Tongue Swelling
  • Red itchy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

Colds and allergies have some of the same symptoms, making it hard to distinguish between the two. Colds typically have wet, phlegmy coughs, sore throats, and body aches and pains, whereas allergies do not. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially after exposure to an allergen, contact your doctor immediately.

Allergy Treatments

Treating allergies should begin with an allergy test to identify exactly what you’re allergic to; this will give you the knowledge needed to avoid allergy triggers. Your doctor may also prescribe allergy medications, including:

  • Nasal sprays
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Corticosteroid creams and ointments for itchy skin, hives, and rashes
  • Allergy shots

Asthma Facts & Information

Asthma is a severe, sometimes life-threatening chronic respiratory disease.  People with asthma have inflamed bronchial tubes, which cause swelling that narrows the passageway into your lungs. If you have Asthma, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC), more than 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma. Asthma is often genetic and common in people with a family history of allergies.

The most common asthma triggers include:

  • Allergens (dust, pollen, animal dander)
  • Viral respiratory infections
  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Chemical fumes and vapors
  • Mold
  • Air pollution

Asthma Signs & Symptoms

Asthma symptoms vary from mild to progressively severe symptoms called an asthma attack. Asthma attacks are responsible for 1.8 million emergency department visits annually in the United States. Signs and symptoms of asthma that, if left untreated, can lead to a severe attack include:

  • Wheezing
  • Frequent cough (especially at night)
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Asthma Treatments

Although there is no cure for asthma, asthma symptoms can be controlled with medication. People with asthma are usually prescribed two categories of asthma medication:

Maintenance Medication

These medications are taken daily to help your body work to prevent future asthma flare-ups.

Quick Relief Rescue Medicines

Rescue inhalers are used to quickly get breathing under control when people with asthma are struggling to breathe. Work with your pulmonologist to find the right combination of medications to control your asthma so you can live a normal life is essential. Spring doesn’t have to be a nightmare if you suffer from allergies and asthma. However, a little information and a lot of prevention will go a long way.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider.