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Coping with allergies & asthma

Asthma and Allergy Awareness month is a fitting time to focus on conditions that affect one out of every five Americans and how to mitigate them. An estimated 50 million American suffer from allergies, which are the most frequently reported chronic condition in children and account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits.

Allergies are characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign substance that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can result in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and scratch throat. An allergic reaction may occur anywhere in the body, but usually appears in the nose, eyes, lungs, lining of the stomach, sinuses, throat and skin. In severe cases, it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks and even death.

Some allergy problems may not need treatment. Others can be controlled with the occasional use of an over-the-counter medication. However, sometimes allergies can interfere with dayto-day activities or decrease quality of life of those who are affected. Although there is no cure for allergies, they can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.

Allergic reactions are triggered indoors and outdoors by common substances, such as plant pollen, molds, household dust, cockroaches, pets, industrial chemicals, foods, medicines, feathers, second hand smoke and insect stings. There are skin allergies, food and drug allergies and latex allergies.

If you have chronic allergies or frequent symptoms, you may benefit from visiting an allergist.

You should see an allergist when:

• Your allergies are causing symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing;

• You experience allergy symptoms several months out of the year;

• Over the counter medications do not control your symptoms;

• Your symptoms are interfering with your ability to carry on day-to-day activities.

A visit might include:

• Allergy testing

• Prevention education

• Medication prescriptions

• Immunotherapy (allergy shots) Asthma is a serious allergic reaction characterized by inflammation of the air passages, resulting in the temporary narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.

Asthma symptoms can be caused by allergens or irritants that are inhaled into the lung. Symptoms include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma is a chronic disorder, and there is no cure for it. But it can be managed. Asthma tends to occur within families and tends to be initiated by a variety of “triggers,” such as allergens, exercise, viral respiratory infections, respiratory irritants, second-hand smoke and aspirin. More Americans than ever are suffering from asthma -- one of the country’s most common and costly diseases.

Every day:

• 44,000 people have an asthma attack.

• 36,000 kids miss school due to asthma.

• 27,000 adults miss word due to asthma.

• 4,700 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.

• 1,200 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.

• Nine die due to asthma.

Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children, with almost five million sufferers under the age of 18. Asthma is more common in adult women than adult men, more common in male children than female children, and more common among children than adults. In Mississippi, 9.7 percent of the population has been diagnosed with asthma as of 2018. See an asthma or allergy physician specialist to receive the best treatment possible. Learn everything you can about asthma. Learn what triggers your (or your child’s) symptoms and avoid them as best you can. Recognize the signs of an oncoming episode. Provide preventive care, so that you or your child have the least amount of difficulty with symptoms. Learn self-management skills.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.


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