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Asthma & Allergies: Breathe Easier //

By Dr. Ross Van Camp


Allergic rhinitis is often known as “Hay Fever.”  It affects more than 1 in 4 children and adults in the United States and should not be taken lightly. The illness causes sneezing, runny nose, and a congested, stuffy head.  It is caused from a sensitivity to specific substances, called allergens, in our homes and the air outside.  The types of sensitivities are nearly endless.  Symptoms that are more prominent at specific times of the year are usually caused by pollen from trees or flowers, or spores from mold.  Symptoms can often be traced to specific events, such as being around dogs, cats or specific perfumes.  Smoke and dust makes all symptoms worse.

It is important not to ignore these symptoms, because they can lead to increasing disease, polyps in the nose, and even asthma.  Avoiding the situations that make your symptoms worse is a logical first step.  Avoiding smoke and reducing dust exposure is always helpful.  While antihistamines can help with some of the symptoms, they do not prevent the allergic rhinitis from getting worse.  Nasal steroid medication does help stop the disease from becoming worse as well as improving the runny nose and congestion. 

If you develop an irritating cough, difficulty breathing, or wheezing, you may have asthma.  Asthma is caused by episodes of narrowing (spasm) of the airway passages in the lung, and is often associated with allergic rhinitis.  Treatment of allergic rhinitis can help to prevent the development of asthma.  The allergens that cause allergic rhinitis can also cause asthma.  Asthma often starts in childhood. The same allergens that cause allergic rhinitis can also cause asthma.  Asthma attacks can be associated with exposure to allergens or smoke, upper respiratory infections and breathing cold air.  Many people have wheezing with exercise.

Asthma is often treated with inhaled medication, which causes very few side effects.  If asthma symptoms occur more than twice a week, it is very important to use a medication that prevents the asthma from becoming worse.  It is also essential to avoid all smoke exposure.  You should not smoke or be around others who smoke.  Irritants such as wood smoke and dust should also be reduced as much as possible.  Removing rugs, carpet and pets from the house often improves symptoms.  

Asthma can usually be diagnosed and managed can be accomplished at Seward Community Health Center. Spirometry, a test of breathing, can help diagnose asthma and can be used to insure that it is improving. Oximetry is a painless test that can ensure you have enough oxygen in your blood. Sometimes additional blood tests for allergies are needed, which can be drawn in Seward and sent to a reference laboratory. Occasionally additional allergy testing or complex lung tests are needed that require specialty referral.


The bottom line: don’t suffer in silence with allergies or asthma. Talk to your healthcare provider today about tests and treatment options that can help you breathe easier.

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