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Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall allergies and asthma

Fall just might be the worse season for asthma. Learn more in my last post from

Fall Allergy Season is Upon US
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the fall allergy season. If you're an asthma/ allergy sufferer as I am, you don't need to be told that -- you just know.

You know because -- like me -- you're up at 3:45 a.m. with a box of tissues on your lap, and you sift through them faster than you can chomp down a bag of potato chips.

You sit on the couch, listening to other people snoring, as a cool, refreshing breeze wafts by. Ah, that breeze feels so good.
Plus, like me, your best friend -- aside from your better half and your kids perhaps -- is the bottle of Claritin and box of Benadryl you visit once or twice a day.

Ah, and that reminds me I need to leave a note for my wife: need more Benadryl please.

Yes, it's true: the fall allergy season is upon us full tilt. Ninety percent of America won't even notice it, yet it's here amid us, all around us.

And while we can't see it, we can feel it in our noses, and in our lungs. We feel it as the downright miserable feeling we describe as, you guessed it, allergy symptoms.

Ironically, just the thought of allergies brings a smile to my face. I don't mean that in a wry way, yet when I was a kid I had the same allergies I do now -- molds, fungus, pollen, ragweed, dust mites -- and yet there wasn't much doctors could do for it.

I know antihistamines were available in the 1970s, but there was this little warning on the box: "Do not use if you have asthma; may cause bronchospasm."

You can see the proof of that right here.

Our doctors must have read something like that and decided we asthmatics would be better off suffering from allergies than from asthma.

Ah, if only they knew how wrong they were. Don't get me wrong because most of these doctors were gallant doctors based on the wisdom of the day.  

Although, this is yet another example of how much wiser we are living in hind sight as opposed to foresight. I can tell you from first hand experience: allergies bad, antihistamines good.

Yet antihistamines aren't a Godsend either when it comes to allergies, because there's more to allergies than just histamine.

Leukotrienes, for example, are little pests too. Like Histamine, Leukotrienes cause sniffles and sneezes, yet they're also the main cause of bronchospasm (airway narrowing), which is asthma.  

Thankfully now we have medicines like Singulair and Accolate to block their effects too. So a daily dose of a leukotriene blocker and allergies are improved that much more -- asthma too.

With antihistamine and leukotriene troopers marching through our bloodstreams, you'd think this would be enough to fend off any allergy attack.

For many of us it is. Yet for the rest of us, even while loaded with the best allergy and asthma medicine money can buy, it's up at 3:45 a.m. achoo-ing with a box of tissues on your lap. 

Note to self: add box of tissues to shopping list.

Why is this?  Why are allergies worse this time of year?  So long as I was up anyway I did some research.

Dan Buglio at, "Fall Dust Allergies," writes that "Early fall often is prime production time for several different allergens. If you already know that you are allergic to dust mites, animal dander or pollen, you can assume that dust will be an ever-present allergen."

Well I know it, and perhaps you know it too. Perhaps you know it because you suffer from allergies, or perhaps you know it because someone in your house is keeping you awake with sniffles, sneezes and wheezes.

Buglio also notes there is a reason for your madness because of the following:

  • Dust mites: They peak around July and August because of "ample amounts of warmth and moisture (derived from your sweat and environmental humidity)."
  • Ragweed: August and November is their pollinating season, "which is why they are the leading cause of fall allergies," Buglio notes.  Ragweed relies on wind to spread it's pollen, which is why I should probably shut that window (but the breeze feels so good). Our Dr. Thompson wrote more on this here.
  • Mold: As the damp leaves pile up, so does the mold. "Leaves are a perfect food source for molds, so it only takes a small amount of moisture and a few warm days for molds to quickly sprout and produce large amounts of spores.
To make matters worse -- if that's possible -- is the more it rains in the summer months the worse ragweed season can be, as Megan Moore of notes in her post, "Allergy Sufferers Brace For Rough Season."

She writes, "The rain we had over the last few months may have made a lot of people happy, but they may change their minds come fall if they have allergies. That's because the more rain, the more ragweed - the main culprit of hay fever."

So brace yourselves for a wild fall, fellow asthma/ allergy sufferers. It may be a wild ride.

Prepare yourself.  My fellow asthma experts have written about fall allergies before, as you can read here

Talk to your doctor about the best allergy and asthma medicines.  Perhaps you should be tested for allergies. 

Allergy shots (as you can read here) are always an option too.  They didn't work for me, yet they might for you. 

It's also important to take your medicines as prescribed, and, to the best of your ability, avoid your asthma triggers (tips here) and allergy proof your home (tips here).

I'll be the first to admit, avoiding allergens is very hard and not fun either.  For example, if I were totally adherent to the rules of allergy avoidance I'd shut the dog gone window. 

Yet the breeze feels so good.

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