Get a better
grasp on asthma
Caribbean Life, June 7–13, 2019 49
Allergy triggers are all around, and the rates
of those people affected by various allergies
seems to be growing. Worldwide, the rise in
prevalence of allergic diseases has continued in the
industrialized world for more than 50 years, according
to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma &
Immunology. Sensitization to foreign proteins in
one’s environment is present in up to 40 percent of
the world’s population, continues the Academy.
An allergy is defi ned as an overreaction of the
human immune system to a foreign protein (allergen)
that is eaten, inhaled, touched, or injected
into the body. Allergies can cause such reactions
as stuffy or runny noses, itchy eyes, coughing and
sneezing, rashes, and hives. More severe reactions
can include diffi culty breathing, a lowering of blood
pressure, and asthma attacks.
Millions of visits to physician offi ces result in
a primary diagnosis of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever
— one of the most common allergy manifestations.
The Centers for Disease Control says 17.6 million
Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in
the past 12 months. Allergic rhinitis is a common
condition that creates symptoms similar to a cold.
Unlike a cold, which is caused by a virus, allergic
rhinitis is an allergic response to any number of
triggers. Usually hay fever can be brought on by
any number of allergens and sometimes it can be
diffi cult to narrow down the exact cause. However,
here are some of the more common allergens:
Pollen: Of all things that can cause an allergy,
those resulting from pollen tend to be the most prolifi
c. Pollen can be released from trees, grasses,
weeds, and fl owers throughout much of the year.
While the main goal of pollen is to fertilize other
plants, pollen that is inhaled can cause allergic reactions.
It’s one of the more diffi cult allergens to
avoid since pollen is virtually everywhere.
Dust: Dust is an accumulation of microscopic
particles that become trapped in a home. A large
portion of dust is comprised of dust mites. WebMD
says about 20 million Americans are allergic to
dust mites and their waste. Dust mites feed on skin
from pets and humans. They tend to spike in numbers
during warmer weather or if indoor temperatures
are kept at 75 F or higher. Cleaning using a
HEPA fi lter vacuum can keep dust at a minimum.
Air purifi ers also may be able to help.
Animal dander: Millions of pet owners have
an allergy to their animals, says the Academy. It’s
not the fur of the animal that causes the trouble,
but usually proteins found in a pet’s shed skin, saliva,
and urine that can cause problems. Keep in
mind that there are no truly hypoallergenic breeds,
and length of hair or fur will not eliminate allergies.
An allergist may be able to suggest a course
Mold: Tiny fungi with spores that fl oat through
the air, mold is yet another common allergen. The
most common allergy-causing molds include Alternaria,
Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium.
Preventing the environment needed for mold
to grow can reduce allergic reactions. This primarily
means airing out homes to keep them dry.
Allergies can occur all year long and be bothersome.
Working with an allergist and avoiding the
most common triggers can help people feel more
fear the next
attack. As a chronic
infl ammatory condition,
the airways to narrow
and swell and
produce extra mucus.
This makes breathing
very diffi cult, and
also can cause wheezing
fi ts, advises the Mayo
Asthma is a common
26 million people, including six million children,
in the United States alone. Despite that prevalence,
the American Lung Association notes that the
cause of asthma is unknown. Scientists continue
to study asthma, focusing on various factors that
may increase a person’s risk for the condition:
Genetics: The ALA says genetics play a role,
noting that the risk is higher among those with a
parent or a sibling who has asthma.
Allergies: Certain allergic conditions are
linked to people with asthma. Seasonal allergies
may compound asthma symptoms.
Environment: Contact with allergens, irritants,
or even certain infections as an infant or
in early childhood before the immune system matures
is tied to asthma. Adult-onset asthma is often
linked to exposure to chemicals or dust in the
Infections: Respiratory infections as a child
that caused infl ammation and damage to the lung
tissue are implicated in compromising lung function
later on in life.
Once asthma is present, doctors often classify it
as allergic or non-allergic, says the American College
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Certain
allergens, such as pet dander or mold, can trigger
a reaction in allergic asthma. For the non-allergic
variety, stress, exercise, illness, extreme weather,
and more may bring on an asthma attack.
Even though asthma is a chronic condition
with no known cure, it can be managed daily, says
ACAAI. An asthma action plan can be developed
with the help of a physician. Some treatment strategies
• Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers as
much as possible.
• Getting vaccinated for infl uenza and pneumonia.
• Recognizing that an attack may be imminent
and acting quickly using a prescribed asthma
• Reducing reliance on quick-relief inhalers by
paying attention to frequency of use and discussing
• Remaining calm during an attack and seeking
further medical treatment if medications become
Learn more about managing asthma by visiting
www.acaai.org or www.lung.org.
Common seasonal allergens
Scientists continue to study
asthma, focusing on various
factors that may increase a
person’s risk for the condition.
Pollen, mold, dust, and animal dander are some of the more common triggers of allergic rhinitis.