Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month
Asthma is one of the most common lifelong chronic diseases. One in 13 Americans (more than 25 million) lives with asthma, a disease affecting the lungs and causing repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Since 1984, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA) has deemed May "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.” Since May is the peak season for many people with these conditions, it is the ideal time to educate patients and their loved ones, according to the AAFA.
“The goal of Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is to increase awareness in the healthcare population and the lay population about asthma and allergies,” says Rebecca Decker, the program director of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), an international organization made up of healthcare professionals and public health officials seeking to promote awareness and research and reduce mortality rates due to asthma. “Most people are unaware that these conditions can be very severe and even fatal. Our aim is to educate the population and increase specific diagnosis, prevention, and awareness of asthma.”
What Is Allergic Asthma?
Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting around 60% of people with asthma. Having allergic asthma means allergens trigger your asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and wheezing. Allergens cause an allergic reaction because the immune system thinks they are harmful, and responds by releasing a substance called immunoglobulin E (or IgE). Too much IgE can trigger inflammation (swelling) of the airways in the lungs. This can make it harder for you to breathe and can trigger an asthma attack.
Learning to avoid allergens is key to managing allergic asthma. The CDC and EPA have developed a helpful checklist to be used in identifying environmental asthma triggers most commonly found in homes: Home Characteristics and Asthma Triggers Checklist for Home Visitors. Though it’s meant to be used by a trained home visitor, it can still be useful in helping anyone to identify potential asthma triggers in their home.
What Are the Common Triggers of Allergic Asthma?
These insects live all over the world from tropical areas to the coldest spots on earth. Studies show most urban homes have cockroaches. The feces, saliva and body parts of these insects are believed to be allergens.
These spider-like creatures are too small to see with the naked eye. They feed on human skin flakes. Both the body parts and feces of dust mites are considered allergens. They are found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, fabric, etc.
Molds can grow on almost anything when moisture is present. Outdoors, many molds live in soil, or on leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Indoors, they can be found in a damp basement, near a leaky faucet or pipe, or a wet shower stall or bathtub. Molds produce tiny spores, which are like seeds, to reproduce. These spores become airborne easily.
Pet urine, feces, saliva, hair or dander (skin flakes) are all allergens. But you don't have to have pets in your house or visit places where animals are kept in order to be exposed to their allergens. Animal allergens are often detected in places where no animals live. People who own or have been around animals may have carried the allergens into the place.
Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds is a common allergen. These airborne particles often peak during different seasons of the year, but they can linger in your home and air ducts all year long.
How Do I Know If I Have Allergic Asthma? Only a doctor can confirm a diagnosis of allergic asthma. This is usually done using a skin or blood test. These tests will help determine if seasonal allergies or year round allergies trigger your asthma.