May is Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month

May is a peak time for people dealing with allergies and asthma and a perfect time to raise awareness about these diseases.

What are allergies?

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to allergens that usually do not cause a reaction in most people. Some of the symptoms of allergies include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and itching; some allergies (food or drug) can cause an extreme response (anaphylaxis) that is life-threatening, is a medical emergency, and is the most severe allergic reaction. If you or someone around you is having an anaphylactic reaction, please call 911 right away.

There are several common allergic diseases that include allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever, indoor/outdoor, seasonal or perennial allergies), allergic asthma (when asthma symptoms are triggered by an allergic reaction), food allergies, drug allergies, latex allergy, insect bite allergy, skin allergies (hives, urticaria, atopic dermatitis: eczema, contact dermatitis), and allergic conjunctivitis. Allergies are caused by allergens being inhaled, ingested, injected (medications), and absorbed through the skin. To be diagnosed for an allergy, please visit your doctor. The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid your allergens as much as possible and get rid of the source in your home and other environments. However, one can’t always avoid allergens so taking medications to relieve symptoms is an option. There is also immunotherapy (allergy shots) which can often prevent allergy symptoms. To learn more about treatment, visit the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI). To learn about what you can do to prevent an allergy reaction, please visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects 20 million Americans. Asthma is a disease of the lungs and during a flare-up, the airways are blocked or narrowed and cause breathing difficulties. The effects of asthma are usually temporary, but they can cause shortness of breath, breathing trouble, and other symptoms. There are two types of asthma: allergic (extrinsic) and non-allergic (intrinsic). Although many are familiar with asthma, there is a lot that still needs to be learned about what causes it and how to prevent it.

Asthma attacks can occur when you are exposed to triggers such as tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergens, pet dander, mold, smoke from burning wood or gas, and other triggers (such as the flu, colds, and other respiratory illnesses). Each person’s triggers are different and their medication and doses will be different as well. There are two types of medication which can either be inhaled or taken in pill form. The first are the long-term control medications which help in reducing the number of attacks and making attacks milder. However, they do not help during an attack. This is where quick-relief medications come in. These medications control the symptoms of the asthma attack itself. If you find yourself using your quick-relief medications more and more, please contact your doctor right away. And make sure that you and your healthcare provider make an individualized asthma action plan.

We conducted a search in REHABDATA to look for articles related to asthma and allergies. Here are a few of the articles we found:

  • Allergies sourcebook, fourth edition. NARIC Accession Number: R09103.
  • The quality of asthma care among adults with substance-related disorders and adults with mental illness. NARIC Accession Number: J56275.
  • Childhood diseases and disorders sourcebook, third edition. NARIC Accession Number: R09225.

So what are you doing to raise awareness about Allergies and Asthma? You can visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for ideas. You can learn more about allergies and asthma by visiting the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NINDS). Or, you can conduct a search through REHABDATA to find more articles, books and reports on asthma and allergies.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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