Local lifestyle columnists

Springtime allergies, asthma can be controlled

By From page C4 | April 27, 2014

Springtime is allergy time for many people.

Seasonal allergies in the spring are due mainly to tree and grass pollen. Pollen is tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.

Pollen can travel for miles, spreading a path of misery for allergy sufferers along the way. The higher the pollen count, the greater the misery. The pollen count measures the amount of allergens in the air in grains per cubic meter. You can find out the daily pollen count in your area by watching your local weather forecast.

The pollen of most flowering plants is not in the air, but carried by bees and butterflies, so it usually does not affect people with allergies. Hay fever season arrives in late summer and can last into October. The allergies in the air at that time of year are from ragweed and other weed pollens. Another name for hay fever is “allergic rhinitis.” When this happens you might have sneezing, runny nose, congestion and itchy, watery eyes.

Well, there are some things that you can do to enjoy the spring, and avoid the misery of allergies. Let’s begin with things that do not involve the use of medicines. Here are a few hints to help you limit your exposure to pollen and mold spores.

Keep in mind that pollen can easily travel for many miles, so the pollen in the air may not be from the things that grow in your neighborhood.

During allergy season keep your windows and doors closed and the air conditioning on.

Pollen is often worse in the early morning hours, so it’s better to limit outdoor activities from approximately 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Stay inside on windy days – there are more allergies in the air then.

Airborne allergens can also trigger asthma, a condition in which the airways narrow, making breathing difficult and leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Here are some asthma triggers to avoid:

  • Tobacco smoke.
  • Candles and incense.
  • Irritants.
  • Dust and dust mites.
  • Cockroaches and rodents.

Also, there is pet dander. It is the protein in the pet’s saliva, skin and urine. When pet dander is inhaled, it can cause an asthma attack in as little as 15 minutes. This protein accumulates in the air, clothing or on surfaces and can trigger asthma attacks in 20 percent to 30 percent of people with asthma.

Don’t let asthma flare-ups take you by surprise. By careful attention to early warning signs and prevention, most asthma problems can be prevented.

Here are a few ways to avoid the most common mistakes in asthma care:

Set expectations high. If asthma is well-controlled there should be no chest tightness and no wheezing (a whistle in the chest when blowing out). Asthma should not interrupt sleep and should not interfere with exercise. Rushing to the doctor with an asthma flare up should be very unusual – and should prompt a search for what caused the flare up and a plan for how to prevent the next one. Asthma symptoms and asthma attacks are not normal. It’s best to focus on how to avoid things that cause it, and you should stop the problem before it begins.

Springtime allergies and asthma can be controlled, if you or your child’s are not controlled, talk to your doctor or allergy specialist.

Betsy Campbell, MPH, CEHRS, Senior Health Educator, Partnership HealthPlan of CA, which is a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.

Betsey Campbell, MPH


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