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May is "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month". It is peak season for people with asthma and allergies. Asthma and allergies are often overlooked as life-threatening conditions as frequently people do not understand the seriousness of these diseases. Approximately 65-70 million Americans have asthma and allergies (about 26 million Americans have asthma, 32 million Americans have food allergies and about 21 million Americans have hay fever, rhinitis, or nasal allergies). Male children are more likely to have asthma than female children. This trend reverses in adulthood, where female adults are more likely to have asthma than male adults At least 80% of children and 50-60% of adults diagnosed with asthma have allergies that trigger their symptoms. It is critical to identify your asthma triggers and develop an asthma maintenance plan.

Asthma is a common chronic (long-term) lung disease in which the lungs' bronchial tubes, or airways, become inflamed. This inflammation causes the airways to become sensitive to environmental triggers such as dust, smoke, pet dander, respiratory infections, cold air and/or mediations. In reaction to these triggers, an asthma attack can occur. The muscles around the bronchial tubes tighten, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed, and the airways often overproduce mucus, all making it difficult to breathe. Asthma symptoms include trouble breathing (shortness of breath), wheezing, coughing, and tightness or pain in the chest.

While Asthma is common in children, you can develop it at any point in your life. People who develop asthma as adults have what's known as adult onset asthma. Adults generally have persistent symptoms and require daily medication to manage the condition. The exact cause of asthma is unknown, although it tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. Asthma treatments include oral medications, inhalers and medication administered via a breathing machine or nebulizer. The type of asthma you have will determine your medication. Additionally, some treatments will be for immediate relief of an asthma attack while others will be taken daily to help prevent symptoms from occurring. You should always take medications as prescribed by your doctor, but there are also some supplementary remedies you can discuss with your physician. One such popular at home treatment is a steam bath which can help to clear up nasal congestion and airway irritation.

There is currently no cure for asthma, but appropriate treatment prevents asthma attacks and can help you have a better quality of life. While most people know that allergists treat allergic conditions, not everyone is aware allergists are the specialists trained to identify asthma and the underlying triggers. Scheduling consistent follow-up visits with your primary care physician and an allergy and asthma specialist will allow proper control of your disease and will also help prevent progression.

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