We’ve all been looking forward to Spring, and now it’s here. So is the sneezing and wheezing that goes with it. Spring is usually when people with allergies suffer the most. Allergies are bad enough by themselves but they can also go hand-in-hand with asthma.

Some things that cause your allergy symptoms may also trigger an asthma attack, but allergies and asthma are not the same thing. What can you do when pollen brings on shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness? Here are five things you should know about allergies and asthma:

1. What are allergies?

Allergic reactions occur when your immune system mistakes a usually harmless substance for something dangerous. The body then produces antibodies which are on alert for this allergen. When a person is exposed to this allergen in the future, the body produces chemicals, such as histamine, that causes allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms frequently include nasal congestion; runny nose; itching of the eyes, nose, throat or roof of the mouth; and skin reactions.

2. What is asthma?

Anyone can get asthma; however, it tends to run in families. Asthma is an inflammation and swelling of the airways. It can be a reaction to many things, but in some cases that swelling can be an allergic reaction. Swelling results in narrow airways which make it more difficult for air to reach the lungs so people with asthma feel like they cannot breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or pain, and trouble breathing.

3. Do allergies cause asthma?

No. Allergies do not automatically cause people to develop asthma. But these conditions are related, and they can occur together. Many people with allergies never develop asthma, but more than 10 million Americans do have allergic asthma according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In this case, the allergic reaction affects the lungs and the symptoms of asthma can occur. However, not everyone with asthma has the same symptoms. It is important to recognize and treat these symptoms in order to keep asthma under control.

4. What are the signs of an asthma attack?

There are warning signs that a person’s asthma is worsening. The early symptoms include:
  • Frequent cough
  • Shortness of breath or easily losing your breath
  • A feeling of tightness or wheezing in the chest
  • Extreme weakness when exercising
  • Signs of an upper respiratory infection, cold, or allergy
  • Difficulty sleeping

5. What should I do if I have allergies and asthma?

If you have allergies and asthma, do your best to avoid the substance that causes your allergic reaction. It can be anything from pollen to dust mites, mold, pet dander, or specific food items. You can help ease asthma symptoms by simply reducing allergen levels in your home. These tips can help:
  • Wash your bedding in hot water
  • Vacuum and clean floors frequently
  • Use high-efficiency air filters and change them frequently
  • Use mattress and pillow covers
A visit to your physician will help you determine the exact allergen and whether you have asthma. You may also be a candidate for medications or allergy shots to help prevent allergic asthma.

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