(The Daily Dish) While spring brings on warmer temperatures, longer days, and blooming foliage, it can also bring on seasonal allergies.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. In fact, according to this source, allergies are among the country’s most common but overlooked conditions.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), climate change may also potentially impact pollen levels and, in turn, our health. While there is no cure for allergies, with preventive measures and treatment, people can find ways to lessen or even eliminate bothersome symptoms. Meagan Weber, a clinical patient care pharmacist with Optum Utah is here to share information about seasonal allergies and how to manage them. She speaks firsthand as she too suffers allergies and asthma.

What should we know about Allergies?

Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction. Allergens can enter the body by being inhaled, swallowed, touched, or injected.

Allergens cause an allergic reaction because your immune system thinks they are harmful. Your immune system reacts by releasing a substance called immunoglobin E (or IgE). Too much IgE can trigger inflammation or swelling of the airways making it harder for you to breathe and can trigger an asthma attack.

More than 50 million Americans have experienced various types of allergies each year. There is no cure for allergies, only management through treatment and prevention. It is among the country’s most common, but overlooked diseases.

What about Allergies and Climate Change?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), climate change will potentially lead to higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons, causing more people to suffer more health effects from pollen and other allergens.

Climate change will potentially lead to shifts in precipitation patterns, more days without frost, warmer seasonal air temperatures and more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

  • These changes can affect:
    • When pollen starts and stops, as well as how long it lasts each year
    • How much pollen plants create and how much is in the air
    • How pollen affects our health (our “allergenicity” of pollen)
    • Amount of pollen exposure
    • The risk of development allergy symptoms.

What about Asthma? Is it the same as allergies?

Asthma is a chronic disease that inflames the airways. People with asthma have airways that are hyperresponsive, meaning that the airways react to asthma triggers such as pollen, colds, air quality/pollution, cigarette smoke and exercise faster and more intensely than people whose airways are normal.

An asthma episode, or attack, can happen at any time. During an asthma attack, the airway branches of the lungs become overly sensitive to asthma triggers and the lining of the airways swell and become inflamed. Mucus clogs the airways and the muscles in the airways tighten causing airflow obstruction.

Approximately 1 in 13 people, or about 25 million Americans, have asthma. Common symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness. Only a doctor can diagnose asthma. Asthma is diagnosed based on your history, physical examination, and lung function tests. 

There is no cure for asthma. You can control your symptoms by taking medication and avoiding your triggers. With proper treatment and an asthma management plan, you can reduce your symptoms.

What about COVID-19 and Asthma?

According to the CDC, people with moderate to severe or uncontrolled asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • The CDC recommends that those with asthma take precautions for COVID-19 by following the CDC’s recommended safety and sanitary precautions:
    • Safety includes: Avoiding asthma triggers and following your treatment plan.
      • Continue current medications, including any inhalers with steroids in them, and know when to use your inhaler.
    • Sanitary precautions include: Be careful using cleaning agents.  Remember that for some people, disinfectants can trigger an asthma attack.
      • People should rely on other adults to clean and disinfect rooms, keep asthma treatments or medications close by, and use and store products safely and correctly.

Additional Resources:

  • Your primary care physician and pharmacist can help you develop a plan to effectively treat your seasonal allergies. As previously mentioned, in some cases, the services of a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies may be necessary.
  • TV and radio stations often cite mold and pollen counts during weather forecasts.
  • Some available online resources: The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website.

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