May 23, 2019

Spring Has Arrived: What You Need to Know About Allergies and Asthma

As we transition from spring to summer, the change in seasons can prove to be difficult for individuals with allergies and asthma. With a plethora of things blooming and constant fluctuation in the temperatures, there are some not-so-welcome things in the air for anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies. These things can also impact individuals with asthma, especially if they also have allergies. Common cold viruses can also be prominent during this time of year, causing even more complications.

To learn more about these issues, we spoke with Dr. Steven Bear, board certified family medicine physician with The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus.

“Initially it can be difficult to differentiate between allergies and a cold virus, as they often present with similar symptoms,” said Bear. “Cough, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes and scratchy throat can occur with either source. You may have a fever and body aches with a virus, but you would not expect these symptoms with allergies.”

The most obvious difference between allergies and a cold virus is the duration of the symptoms.

“Your average cold virus can stick around for up to two weeks, whereas allergy symptoms will persist for as long as you’re coming into contact with whatever you’re allergic to. Many allergy sufferers know when their allergy season is so they are able to distinguish between the two.”

Triggers for allergies are common and ubiquitous in our daily lives.

“Allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander and cockroaches are likely to be near the top of the list for most of Kansas,” said Bear.

The best way to treat your allergies is to avoid what you’re allergic to.

“This is easier said than done for most people,” said Bear. “For those who have to mow grass or harvest wheat, or own a certain breed of pet that they are allergic to, we typically advise starting with a daily antihistamine. Commonly prescribed antihistamines are Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra, and generic versions of those brands which are just as effective. If you aren’t getting the results you’d hope to from those medications, we recommend trying nasal steroids. Beyond that, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss prescription options or to get a referral to an allergist. An allergist will be able to do specific testing and possibly build a serum to combat your specific allergy.”

Unlike allergies, asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways, causing a great deal of inflammation. Allergies can be a common problem in individuals with asthma as the allergies can trigger asthma.

“The inflammation in the narrow airways, where the actual work of the lungs is done, causes a drastic unnatural narrowing that, along with the mucus production that accompanies an asthma attack, can severely restrict air flow to the oxygen exchange center of the lung,” said Bear.

If you are someone who has both allergies and asthma, Bear encourages you to keep your allergies as under control as possible.

“In addition to that, asthmatics should have access to quick relief medications, such as albuterol, for when their asthma symptoms kick in,” said Bear. “In many people with mild asthma, having an albuterol inhaler is the extent of medication required but there are certainly gradations of asthma that need more aggressive treatment. There are two categories of medications that can be used: quick-acting rescue medications and long-lasting controller medications. If you are in a position where you need to use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week, follow up with your doctor to discuss additional treatment options.”

Dr. Steven Bear practices family medicine at the Hunter’s Ridge location at 4646 NW Fielding Road in Topeka, KS. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bear or another practitioner at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, please call 1-833-4NEWDOC (1-833-463-9362). 

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