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Allergies and asthma: What’s got you wheezing?

If we’re to believe movies and TV shows, asthma is something that happens to the nerdy kid in who has to take a break and use their inhaler in the middle of a ball game or gym class.

That, however, is a misleading stereotype. In reality, asthma affects the young and the old, and it strikes both indoors and out. And many times, asthma is triggered by allergens—not always exercise or activity.

In fact, allergies are one of the strongest triggers of wheezing, says Mark Millard, MD, a pulmonologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White – Dallas and medical director of the Martha Foster Lung Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

“Allergic reactions are actually overreactions by the body to a foreign substance, like pollen, pet dander or dust mites,” Dr. Millard said. “It’s that overreaction that can lead to inflammation of the airways, causing airway spasms and wheezing.”

When to see a doctor for asthma

Asthma, whether triggered by allergies, exercise, cold weather or something else, should be diagnosed by a doctor.

“If you have wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, see a doctor,” said Steven Cole, DO, an allergist and immunologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Irving. “And if it’s allergy-induced, find out what it is you’re allergic to.”

Choosing an asthma treatment

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The best way to treat allergy-induced asthma is to avoid the trigger, Dr. Cole said.

“With most patients, when they remove the allergens, they get better,” he said.

So, be on the lookout for your triggers and try to avoid them as much as possible.

“If every time you vacuum or sweep you start wheezing, that’s a pretty good indicator that dust is an asthma trigger of yours,” Dr. Millard said. “Have someone else do that chore, and stay out of the area for 20 to 30 minutes to let things settle.”

But avoidance isn’t your only option.

“The primary treatment of asthma is medication,” Dr. Millard said. “Quick-relief medicines open up airways. But more important are the controller therapies, which reduce inflammation and prevent the airway spasms from happening in the first place.”

A pulmonologist can help you to figure out the best treatments for your needs so you can breathe easier and live your best life with asthma.

Learn more about asthma care and allergy care today.

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Allergies and asthma: What’s got you wheezing?