Sniffles, sneezes, and wheezes from spring allergies and asthma jumped the gun in 2012, with symptoms developing two or three weeks earlier than usual in many areas of the U.S.
“Warmer temperatures and lack of significant freeze events in much of the country have placed the current allergy season in early-entrance mode,” says asthma and allergy expert Dr. David Wilson, Medical Director, The Lung Institute at Columbus Regional Hospital in Indiana.
Yet there is some happier news. While allergy season will definitely be longer this spring, it probably won’t be any worse than usual for susceptible individuals, according to Dr. Wilson, who offers these tips to reduce spring pollen exposure—and its irritating consequences:
- Change the filter, turn on the air conditioning, and enjoy the great indoors.
- Cover up. Wear an all-purpose and inexpensive mask (available online or from your pharmacy) when outside.
- Hand off yard work such as mowing and raking during high-pollen seasons.
- Use a home or commercial dryer (rather than a backyard clothesline) to dry sheets and clothing.
Many people with allergies don’t have asthma—but most with asthma do have allergies. When avoiding triggers isn’t enough to control symptoms, it’s time to consult an allergy and asthma specialist for proper diagnosis and an individualized treatment plan.
Fortunately, simple breath tests to measure a marker of airway inflammation called FENO (fraction of exhaled nitric oxide) can help doctors detect and track asthma and changes in allergen exposure.
“Breathlessness and wheezing in adults are often attributed to disorders such as COPD, interstitial lung disease, and others,” explains Dr. Wilson. “FENO testing with the handheld NIOX MINO device provides a very sensitive indicator of asthma activity and symptoms, helping doctors more effectively diagnose and therefore manage the disease.”
Doctors prescribe asthma medicines (inhalers, pills, liquids, and injections) to stop, control, and prevent symptoms.
Prescription and OTC antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids help tame allergies. A new treatment option for nasal allergy symptoms— QNASL Nasal Aerosol (Teva Pharmaceuticals)—is expected to be available by prescription in April 2012. The novel “dry” steroid spray is indicated for seasonal or yearlong allergy sufferers ages 12 and older.