Author: Paige Blatchford, Clinical Pharmacist
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has declared May to be National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. With spring in full swing, it’s peak season for people with allergies and asthma, and the ideal time to spread awareness and educate patients and loved ones.
Allergies affect as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children in the U.S and occur when the body’s immune system recognizes a substance as harmful and overreacts to it. The body responds by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin. The resulting symptoms of these antibodies responding to allergens is an allergic reaction.
The reaction can range from uncomfortable - such as watery eyes, a rash or hives, or sneezing – to serious and possibly life-threatening symptoms which require immediate medical attention, including swelling of airways, known as anaphylaxis. Common allergens include drugs or medicine, food, insect bites/stings, latex, mold, pets and pollen.
Doctors diagnose allergies by reviewing a patient’s medical history, doing a thorough medical exam, and running tests to identify specific allergens. Treatments are based on medical history and the type and severity of the symptoms.They can include avoidance of allergens, traditional medication therapy, and/or immunotherapy, which trains the immune system not to overreact. This is done by offering increasing doses of an allergen to gradually desensitize the immune system to the allergen.
An allergic reaction to pollen can be one of many triggers for as asthma attack. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects more than 26 million Americans, including more than 6 million children, and causes your airways to become swollen or inflamed, making breathing difficult.
Other triggers include chemicals, extreme weather changes, smoke or dust, stress and exercise. Most treatment plans involve avoiding triggers, and doctors can prescribe a medication regimen as well as an Asthma Action Plan to help prevent asthma attacks and ease symptoms when they do occur.
Most asthma medications come in the form of nebulizers or inhalers which allows the medications to work directly in the lungs. Proper technique is critical when it comes to using such devices, a provider, nurse, or pharmacist is a great resource to ensure proper usage. The ultimate goal of asthma treatment is to prevent or reduce swelling in the airways, or help open the airways by relaxing the muscles around the airways.
Doctors diagnose asthma by conducting a physical exam and taking a detailed medical history. They will often do lung function tests and often perform chest or sinus x-rays. Many people live normal lives with asthma when they follow their treatment plans.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has many tools on their website for sharing facts with your friends on social media, participating in awareness events, and fundraising. For more information, go to https://www.aafa.org/asthma-and-allergy-awareness-month/.
You can also get advice, resources, clinical support, and access to needed medication through the Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions website. This team has extensive experience in asthma and is standing by to provide all the support you need throughout the course of your treatment.