It’s early springtime in New England. The mornings start with a slight hangover of that familiar winter’s chill, but as the sunshine finds our faces through the parting clouds, we feel a warm reminder that summer is—in fact—on its way. Lots of things are changing for the better. We’ve traded the parka for a sweater on our evening walks, the Saturday morning golf game is back on, and those bulbs we planted in the garden are starting to shoot up through the mulch.
For certain, there is a lot to look forward to. For our asthma and COPD community, it’s also it’s a time to be mindful. Despite its beauty, spring can be a challenge for many of us due to the triggers that come along with spring allergy season.
If you follow @flypnebulizer on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) you may have noticed a theme of “Flyp Tip” posts with helpful hints to reduce exposure to environmental triggers. We hope you find these tips helpful and we encourage you to comment on our posts with other tips that you have found to make an impact. Our Flyp family is a strong community, and we are in this together.
Nationally recognized Allergist and Immunologist, Dr. Purvi Parikh recently shared some of her thoughts in the article below—including identifying and managing a rising number of allergy and asthma patients. In the article, Dr. Parikh discusses common symptoms, triggers, and treatment options. Importantly, she states “sufferers should consult a trusted physician, adjust their physical environment, and be alert to any changes in their symptoms.” Sage wisdom, and some that we hope will help you breathe freely this spring allergy season.
Identifying and Managing the Rising Number of Allergy and Asthma Patients
By Purvi Parikh, M.D., allergist & immunologist at NYU-Langone Health
The number of people with allergies and asthma in the U.S. has been rising, in recent years, to about 50 million allergy and 25 million asthma sufferers. Sufferers are all too familiar with the symptoms of a runny nose, tightening chest, and a cough that lasts for more than two weeks.
In the past, these patients felt trapped by their condition. But today, breakthrough treatments and solutions to manage allergies and asthma are transforming the dangers and discomforts of patients’ lives. People with acute allergies can turn to a number of pills and sprays, available both over-the-counter and by prescription. For the asthma sufferer historically reliant on inhalers and large nebulizers, there are now more portable options, including Flyp™ nebulizer, which is completely self-contained, pocket-sized, and easy-to-use.
It is also critical for patients to be cognizant of, and prepare for, the many factors that can trigger or inflame allergies and asthma in order to protect an optimal quality of life. Some of these factors are strictly environmental, such as humidity, urban air pollution, and high pollen counts. And in some cases, a flare-up can be triggered even without an infectious agent—which can suppress the natural reactions of the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to allergic diseases.
Environmental allergies and asthma are on the rise due to the hygiene hypothesis, which theorizes that our society has become too clean or industrialized and, therefore, people are no longer exposed to certain bacteria that protect us from developing allergies. No matter the reason, any one or any combination of these factors can lead to a dramatic increase in a patient’s probability for acute allergy or asthma symptoms.
It can be hard to separate allergies and asthma—in fact, allergies are often the inciting condition for a patient’s asthma and the usual reason for an asthma attack. Though each person is different, most patients have a long list of potential triggers to stay clear of.
The most common signs and symptoms
Patients should know the symptoms and signs of an acute case of allergies or an asthma attack. Though these may vary, food, environment, insect venom, and medications are among the most common allergic triggers. They can cause a mix of skin, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal problems.
As there is a strong correlation between allergic reactions and asthma, most allergies exhibit respiratory symptoms, including:
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Tightening of one’s chest
- Hives or rash
Seasonal factors, including pollen or hay fever during the spring, summer, and fall—are often to blame for respiratory symptoms. Triggers can also include adverse reactions to mold, dust mites, or pet dander. The symptoms caused by mold or dust mites, specifically, can intensify due to heat and humidity.
Asthma is defined by the inflammation or swelling of the airways in the lungs. When these airways constrict or inflame, sufferers will usually experience symptoms, including:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
- Shortness of breath
The diagnosis of allergies and asthma
Skin testing is the most helpful and widely used method of isolating allergic triggers. The patient will usually be exposed to small amounts of various substances and the physician will note the skin’s reaction over time. Both food and environmental allergies are often diagnosed with Immunoglobulin E (IgE) tests. These tests classify IgE antibodies to specific antigens.
In diagnosing asthma, physicians will perform a pulmonary function test, which indicates how well the lungs are working. This test is used to measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange. Chest X-rays can point to possible outside factors (infections, for example) that may either cause or worsen symptoms.
Treatment may include steroids, antihistamine nasal sprays, antihistamine pills, or eye drops. When asthma is the diagnosis, the severity of the condition dictates the method of treatment and may include inhalers, injections, or pills. It is important for the patient to learn the proper use of an inhaler.
Alternatively, physicians may prescribe a nebulizer to make sure the medication is fully reaching the lungs. Nebulizers tend to have better lung deposition—which is to say, they get deeper into your lungs—than inhalers.
If necessary, “allergy shots” or immunotherapy can be used to lower the severity of symptoms; they may completely cure allergies and asthma, in some cases.
There are a number of non-medical solutions that can help lessen symptoms, such as keeping rooms allergen-free by closing windows during peak pollen days, removing covers or rugs (which contain dust mites), keeping pets out of the bedroom, and using an air purifier to help minimize allergens.
The best course of action to promote a more comfortable experience while living with allergies or asthma is a comprehensive one. Sufferers should consult a trusted physician, adjust their physical environment, and be alert to any changes in their symptoms. Doing so can help patients spend less time fearing for their next breath.