Spring has sprung, and in addition to welcoming the beauty and warmth of the season, many folks welcome – though maybe not with eager anticipation – seasonal allergies.
For some, allergies and asthma go hand in hand. More than half of the 20 million Americans with asthma have allergic asthma, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. More than 2.5 million children under age 18 suffer from allergic asthma.
Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing and chest tightness. But allergic asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.
Dr. Jamshed Kanga, chief of the division of pediatric pulmonology at the University of Kentucky, said, “When you look at Kentucky, almost everyone has seasonal allergies.”
But some people may not realize they are suffering from allergic asthma, Kanga said. Most people associate asthma with wheezing and asthma attacks, but a persistent cough is often the most prevalent symptom of allergic asthma. Allergic asthma can also be misdiagnosed as bronchitis, he said.
Determining the cause of breathing trouble in children can also be difficult. Today’s kids don’t run and play as they once did so what may look at first like asthma may be lack of conditioning, he said.
But if parents are concerned about their child, they should talk to the coach or teacher who can identify whether the child is having out-of-the-ordinary challenges.
If you have breathing troubles, which make exercising more difficult, it can be easy to avoid exercise, said Dr. Tracie Overbeck, of Allergy Partners of Central Kentucky. But your lungs need to be worked just like the rest of your body, she said. People with allergic asthma need to take a few extra steps to prepare for exercise.
A debilitating asthma attack is very rare if people take their asthma medication regularly and take some precautions when exercising, said Kanga.
First, Overbeck suggested, ask your doctor to help you get a baseline of your breathing. That way you can note changes in symptoms as you exercise.
Then, she said, it’s important to warm up your lungs just as you warm up your body. Take 10 minutes to warm up before exercising, she said, taking slow deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Ask your doctor about prescribing an inhaler for asthma, Kanga said, and use it about 15 minutes before you begin to exercise.
Overbeck discovered her asthma in college while playing soccer. But, she said, asthma “doesn’t have to be a limiting thing.” It is important to continue to take the medicine as prescribed even when you start to feel better.