It is uncertain what causes some people to have nasal allergies and asthma. We are still learning what is going on in the body when people have either of these conditions. But we do know that allergies and asthma have a lot in common.
Nasal allergies occur in the upper airways, while asthma occurs in the lower airways. Though the locations are different, allergies and asthma appear to cause the same sorts of reactions: swelling, inflammation, and difficulty breathing. Roughly 30% of people who have one of these disorders will have the other one as well. We also know that allergies in the upper airways can aggravate asthma in the lower airways, and vice versa.
If a patient has allergies or asthma, the most important thing they need to understand is how to keep these disorders under control. This is particularly important in the case of asthma, since poorly-controlled asthma can result in permanent lung injury and even death.
Here are the basics that patients should know to keep their allergies and asthma under control:
1. They need to identify exactly what is triggering asthmatic or allergic reactions. Trigger avoidance is much safer and simpler than reversing symptoms once they begin to occur. If a patient’s physician approves, allergy testing may be a good idea.
2. Use nasal saline irrigation (such as a neti pot or other nasal lavage technique) to help keep allergies under control and keep sinuses clean. http://www.dynamicclinic.com/nasal_lavage.php
3. Patients with allergies or asthma should use a controller medication (usually an inhaled corticosteroid) each day as directed by their doctor. They should be advised not to stop taking the controller medication just because they feel better, since the controller prevents the allergic or asthmatic reaction from occurring. (Note: controllers can take 2-4 weeks before they are fully effective.)
4. If your patient smokes, they need to hear you ask them to please consider quitting. (1-800-QUITNOW, or 1-800-NOBUTTS in California.) Studies show that patients are more likely to quit when they see how important it is to their care provider (this goes double for physicians). Once is never enough, so you should repeat yourself at every patient encounter.
5. If a patient is more congested than usual, figure out if the cause is viral or bacterial, and treat symptoms accordingly. This is especially important for cardiopulmonary patients, who could have an exacerbation of their disease and require hospitalization if an infection goes untreated.
Please call Select Respiratory Services at 916-805-5119 for more information or if we can assist you further.