Allergies vs. Asthma: Your Online Resource by WiseCare Experts
Our WiseCare experts are your dedicated healthcare partners in the battle with asthma and allergies. Read on to learn the difference between asthma and allergies, the links between them, and what you can do to now that the peak season is here.
Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declares May to be “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.” It’s a peak season for those with asthma and allergies, and a perfect time to educate yourself and loved ones about these diseases.
Healthcare costs are 46% higher in patients who have combined conditions, with these being the most severe patients.
There is no cure for asthma and allergies, and many deaths are preventable with proper treatment and care. A few more facts about asthma and allergies:
- Ten people a day die from asthma.
- Asthma affects more than 24.5 million Americans.
- More than 6 million children under the age of 18 have asthma.
- More than 50 million Americans have all types of allergies – pollen, skin, latex and more.
Is It Asthma?
You probably know the common symptoms of asthma, like shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. But did you know there are other respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms? Some of them include:
- Viral infections
- Sinus infection
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Recurrent cough not due to asthma
If you have symptoms of asthma, it is important to be properly diagnosed. If you are on a treatment plan for asthma, but the treatment does not seem to be working, you might not have asthma or you may need a different type of asthma medicine. Work with your WiseCare provider to find the right diagnosis and treatment.
Whether you have asthma or a different condition, the right diagnosis is critical for your treatment plan and quality of life.
Is It Allergies?
If you’re one of the 50 million Americans living with allergies, you are probably familiar with the tell-tale signs of allergies, such as sneezing, itchy nose, and watery eyes. Allergies can affect your day-to-day life, and many people feel that they have to “get used to” living with allergies. However, there are different ways you can fight your allergies. WiseCare providers are dedicated to empowering you with the tools you need to understand your allergies—and how to fight them.
There are different types of triggers for allergies. These triggers can include foods, pets, medicines, and even sun exposure . There are four types of allergies: respiratory allergy, skin-related allergy, food allergy and insect allergy.
Allergy symptoms occur when immune system pathways are inflamed after an encounter with allergenic proteins in the environment. These proteins are often from plant pollens, animal dander, insect venom, or certain foods.
Symptoms from allergies range from things you see on your body like wheals (skin reaction similar to mosquito bite sores), rashes, hives, and eczema, to internal reactions like an upset stomach, wheezing, difficulty breathing, headaches, and a clouded mind. While symptoms from your allergies can range in severity from simple annoyance to the more serious anaphylaxis, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any reactions you may experience. Be sure to keep note of when your reactions happen, and what you may have been exposed to that could have triggered the reaction. Keeping a log will help your WiseCare provider narrow down what allergens you may be allergic to.
Linking Allergies to Asthma
Up to 85% of asthmatic patients also have allergies. Asthma is currently diagnosed in about 8% of the population and consistently higher in children. Early asthma symptoms are often hard to recognize and are frequently missed.
Allergy is one of the most important predictors of asthma development and control. This is especially true of chronic allergies to dust mites, mold, cockroaches, and animal dander. Since the upper and lower airways have common tissues and similar physiological pathways, it has been shown that what happens in one part affects the other.
For example, when the nose is exposed to an allergen, and becomes inflamed, this inflammatory process spreads into the lungs and either worsens a patient’s asthma control or could lay the foundation for later asthma development in those at risk, such as young children.
As the lungs remain chronically inflamed by constant allergen exposure, the tissues of the lungs will first become hyper-sensitive and then eventually undergo permanent structural changes that worsen asthma symptoms over time. The longer this condition is untreated, the more severe, and less treatable it becomes.
This is why it is important to catch asthma as early as possible and begin treatment. By treating your allergies, your asthma may become more manageable.
Apply the Avoidance Method
Since your allergy symptoms will only occur in the presence of an allergen, one option for reducing symptoms is to simply avoid the allergen. With easily identifiable allergens such as drugs and foods, this may be a reasonable strategy. However, since airborne allergens exist in such high quantities in the air that they are nearly impossible to avoid when they are in season.
Taking steps to minimize your exposure can be helpful to reduce your symptoms. Some options are:
- Avoid going into natural areas during pollen season.
- Keep your windows closed to minimize the amount of pollen coming into your home.
- Use an air filter in your home.
- Clean your home regularly to prevent the build-up of dust and other allergens.
- Use mattress and pillow covers and wash these frequently.
- Take a shower every night to remove pollens from your hair and skin.
- Avoid letting pets sleep on your bed at night since they bring pollen into the house, too.
Don’t let allergies interfere with your day-to-day activities at home, work or school. You can live a normal life despite having allergies. See your WiseCare provider for treatment and guidance. Take steps to avoid your allergens. Keep medicine with you at all times so you can treat an allergic reaction.
How WiseCare Can Help You
Despite these interventions, however, they are not likely to be sufficient to completely remove your symptoms. It is good to supplement these interventions by seeing your WiseCare provider to discuss treatments, such as short term use of OTC drugs like antihistamine.
Book your appointment in either Severna Park or Pasadena office to get the medical care you need right now for symptoms related to allergies and/or asthma: Adult Appointment Scheduler or Pediatric Primary Care Scheduler