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Category: Allergies & Asthma

Trouble Breathing: Is it Allergies or Asthma?

Trouble Breathing: Is it Allergies or Asthma?

Tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, adverse reactions to environmental and biological triggers. Are you experiencing an asthma attack…or do you have a wicked case of allergies?

Answer: it could be both. Allergies and asthma often occur together. Certain allergens – like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen – can act as triggers for both allergies and asthma.

An allergy is an inflammatory reaction or response to a specific substance. Allergic reactions can involve nasal membranes, the eyes, the skin, the tongue, and the breathing passages in severe reactions. Allergy symptoms include an itchy, stuffy, or runny nose, sneezing, itchy, red, or irritated skin, and itchy, burning, or watery eyes.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung (lower respiratory) disease that causes difficulty breathing.

via acaai.org

asthma symptoms

So, how does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms? According to Mayo Clinic: “An allergic response occurs when immune system proteins (antibodies) mistakenly identify a harmless substance, such as tree pollen, as an invader. In an attempt to protect your body from the substance, antibodies bind to the allergen. The chemicals released by your immune system lead to allergy signs and symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes or skin reactions. For some people, this same reaction also affects the lungs and airways, leading to asthma symptoms.”

Although most treatments for allergies and asthma are different, there are a few that can help with both conditions.

Leukotriene modifier (Singulair) is a medicine that helps with both allergy and asthma symptoms by controlling immune system chemicals that are released during an allergic reaction.

Allergy shots can help ease asthma symptoms by gradually reducing your immune system response to particular allergy triggers.

Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy (Xolair) can help when you encounter an irritating allergen: IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into your bloodstream.

In short: go see your doctor. Whether it’s asthma, allergies, or a combination of the two, he or she can properly diagnose and help you manage your symptoms and get some relief through medication.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to improve the indoor air quality in your home and workspace. Reducing dust, allergens, smoke, contaminants, pet dander, chemical fumes, mold and mildew will go a long way toward lessening allergy and asthma symptoms. Use natural cleaning products (free of VOCs and synthetic fragrances) when possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to regularly clean carpets, use exhaust vents when cooking, and invest in a high-quality air purifier that can remove these irritants from your air space.

 

 

 

Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

 

Sleep is essential for all humans. For many of us, however, true, restful sleep can also prove to be elusive. Not getting enough quality sleep can create negative effects. While one night of little sleep isn’t usually enough to put anyone at serious (and really, who hasn’t experienced a bad night of sleep before?), chronic sleep deprivation can create major problems like increasing risk of stroke, increasing the risk of diabetes, memory loss, becoming more accident prone, premature aging and higher chances of obesity.

 

As anyone who’s experienced allergies or asthma can tell you, struggling to breathe can also have a huge impact on the amount and quality of sleep you can get. This is especially true for children, whose brains are still developing, and who can be particularly affected by lack of sleep. Additionally, anyone with chronic breathing issues like sleep apnea or COPD can be more susceptible to sleep deprivation as well.

 

According to the American Psychological Association:

 

  • More than 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month.
  • 69 % of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.[1]

 

It stands to reason that improving one’s ability to breathe can have positive, far-reaching health benefits, one of which is achieving a better night’s sleep. So what are some ways to start breathing (and sleeping!) better?

 

  • If you have excess weight, losing weight will help, particularly if you suffer from sleep apnea. The American College of Physicians recommends weight loss for people who are overweight or obese. Why? “People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep.”[2] Otherwise, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask at night can be necessary to regulate breathing (and facilitate sleep).

 

  • If you have severe allergies or suffer from asthma, breathing well enough to get quality sleep at night could prove frustrating. According to The Sleep Foundation, “…rising cases of asthma could be the result of environmental factors such as an increase in exposure to pollution or indoor allergens.”[3] Asthmatics often struggle with nighttime coughing, wheezing and breathlessness that can interfere with sleep.

Removing as many allergy and asthma triggers from the home – and the bedroom in particular – can help. Drapery, excess bedding, carpets & rugs, stuffed animals and pets can all complicate breathing for asthmatics.

Vacuuming regularly with a machine that is equipped with a HEPA filter can help remove allergens from the air. Investing in a high-quality air purifier can also go a long way toward greatly reducing contaminants, dander, dust and particulate from your indoor environment. Eliminating sources of odor – be it organic (mold, mildew) or synthetic (air fresheners, potpourri) – may also help. Improving the indoor air quality of your home can significantly improve breathing.

 

  • If weight loss and significant improvements of your indoor air quality still aren’t helping you breathe better at night, visit with your physician. He or she might refer you to a sleep clinic, which will monitor and observe your sleeping patterns to see if you have an underlying sleep disorder. Or your physician might prescribe medication, such as a steroid inhaler, to facilitate better breathing.

 

 

 

Sources:
[1] http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx
[2] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/weight-loss-breathing-devices-still-best-for-treating-obstructive-sleep-apnea-201310026713
[3] http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/asthma-and-sleep