By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.
If you suffer from asthma, you may be having a harder time breathing lately due to allergies. If you are, know you’re not alone. The spring is peak season for people with allergies, which is why May is known as “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.”
To raise awareness around this disease that affects 25 million people in the United States, (20 million adults and 5 million children) we wanted to help provide tips to keep your asthma under control this allergy season.
What Causes Asthma?
Although Asthma is a more commonly known illness, you may be wondering what causes flareups. Asthma is a chronic condition that affects your bronchial tubes (i.e. the airway in your lungs.) Those who suffer from this disease airways will narrow, swell and produce extra mucus when triggered which makes breathing difficult and causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
But to be honest, it’s uncertain what actually “causes” asthma. What the medical community does know is that there are many factors that play into what might cause someone to have an asthma attack. Whether that be genetics and asthma runs in the family, to allergens, respiratory infections, and other environmental factors.
For some, asthma is only a minor inconvenience and flares up a few times a year, however 5 to 10 percent of asthmatics have it far more severe and feel the impacts of their disease in their everyday life. Not to mention, many may have life-threatening asthma attacks. Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured but it can be controlled.
Tips To Keep It Under Control
Know Your Triggers
As we stated above, asthma can be triggered by many ailments so it’s important to know what the cause of your asthma attacks might be. For many, common triggers include cold air, humidity, exercise, allergens like pollen and dander and the effects of dealing with a cold.
While some might find that exercise can cause them to use their inhaler more frequently, working out is known to dramatically improve asthma symptoms. And by combining exercise with the proper treatment, improvement can be achieved.
Conditions such as obesity cause asthma to be worse, which is why it’s important to stay healthy. By exercising, you strengthen your breathing muscles, improve your immune system, and keep a healthy body weight. However, be mindful on what types of exercise are best for you.
Cardio is a great way to strengthen your lungs, but it’s also important to not overexert yourself to the point you can’t catch your breath either. If you can, try and avoid working out in cold air to prevent an attack.
If you smoke on the regular, or socially, it’s a good idea to think about quitting. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of your asthma medication, not to mention the tobacco itself damages your airways causing more attacks.
Secondhand smoke can also cause serious breathing issues. In fact, studies have shown a clear link between asthma in children because of secondhand smoke. More than 40 percent of children who go to the emergency room for asthma live with smokers and have more frequent asthma attacks.
Pay Attention to Outside Air Conditions
The weather and outside conditions can play a big part into asthma attacks. If you’re triggered by allergens such as pollen, be sure to pay attention to the pollen count outside, especially during the spring.
If a fire is burning nearby, that will most likely also affect your asthma. By being aware of what’s happening outside of your house, you can plan and be prepared with the right medications.
Keep Your House Clean
Similar to knowing the conditions outside, it’s also important to keep your house clean as well. If you’re triggered by animal dander or dust, you can reduce symptoms indoors by vacuuming and dusting regularly.
Asthma attacks can be triggered by stress. Think about it, when put into a stressful situation, you might feel an overwhelming sense of panic that can cause an increase in breathing and heart rate that leads to shortness of breath and chest tightness.
If you know that you have a stressful event coming up, try relaxing with massage therapy, a relaxing bath, exercise and even a good night’s rest.
Take Care of Your Health
If your asthma is severe, it can be affected greatly if you are faced with another ailment. Therefore, it’s so important to take care of yourself. If it’s cold and flu season, get your flu shot, inquire about a pneumonia shot, wash your hands, and wear a mask if in crowded places.
Be Diligent with Medication
Finally, be proactive with your asthma attack plan and take your medication. Many preventive medications require you to take them daily, so don’t feel like you can skip out just because you’re currently feeling great.
And don’t forget to keep your inhaler with you wherever you go. You never know what might trigger your asthma.
By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.