Spring is around the corner, which means warmer weather, fresh flowers and more time outside. While many are looking forward to the new season, spring can trigger something less favorable for others: asthma and allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), approximately 25 million Americans, or 1 in 13 Americans, including 8% of adults and 7% of children, experience asthma.
Here are several tips to manage your asthma and allergies as we enter National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month this May.
Asthma, allergies or COVID-19?
The symptoms of asthma, allergies, and more recently, COVID-19, can have mimicking effects that leave many unsure of what they are experiencing. First and foremost, it’s important to note that asthma and allergies are two separate conditions. While they can be very similar, asthma is often triggered by an allergen or by something in the air. Asthma is primarily hyper-reactivity of the airways – a spasm of the airway which you perceive as being short of breath – whereas allergies can have a wide range of symptoms, including rashes and itchiness. Both asthma and allergies are triggered by allergens, such as pollen, effects from secondhand smoke, cats, dogs, dust, mold and more.
The symptoms of allergies and asthma are different from those of COVID-19; however, if there is a question about the possibility of having COVID-19, it is recommended to get a COVID-19 test. The symptoms of allergies and asthma are typically recurrent and have a trigger, whereas COVID-19 is more isolated, and symptoms may also include a cough or fever. Additionally, many may confuse asthma and allergies with the common cold or other transmissible viruses, which is not the case. Allergies and asthma are not transmissible, which means you can’t catch it from someone, and you can’t share allergies and/or asthma with someone else.
Ways to manage asthma and allergies
Another misconception about asthma and allergies is that there is nothing you can do to alleviate them. In reality, there are several medication options to treat asthma and allergies by tracking your symptoms. Some medication options include montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate), zileuton (Zyflo) and other antileukotriene drugs. It is also recommended to keep an ongoing and consistent relationship with your health provider to manage your asthma and allergies and continually work towards decreasing them. An “Asthma Action Plan” is a great tool to do this, where you and your doctor work to control your symptoms. If asthma and allergy symptoms are worsening, your doctor may recommend a different medication or a rescue inhaler. They can also work with you to measure your peak flows, which helps determine how well your lungs are working.
Another way to help alleviate symptoms is fully understanding what your triggers are. For example, if cats trigger your asthma or allergies, it may be beneficial to take preventative medication before a situation where you’d be near cats. It is also important to take action steps, such as changing the filters in your house which can contribute to mold, choosing a pet that is hypoallergenic and more.
Importance of educating on asthma and allergies
It is crucial to educate yourself and those around you on asthma and allergies. A first step could be to make sure people you’re with often carry an inhaler with them in case of emergency. It is important to also let those people know about your triggers, so they can minimize your exposure.
At CareSource, we offer care management to help coordinate care and educate members on asthma and allergies. Additionally, we provide coverage for all asthma and allergy medications, and we work with your doctor or health care provider to get the medications you need. We’ve also recently partnered with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) to increase green space in local areas and reduce harmful environmental factors that could contribute to asthma or allergies. And finally, we have a robust network of providers to recommend for dealing with ongoing allergies and asthma. For a complete list of our offerings and providers, visit www.caresource.com.