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From Allergies to Asthma: When to Call 9-1-1

It’s been a rough spring for seasonal allergy sufferers. While other parts of the country have been hit harder by allergens this year than we have, Central Texans have definitely felt it, too.

After getting nearly double the average yearly rainfall during just a four month span this past November through February, Central Texas trees and grasses were in healthy bloom early. And with that came an abundant supply of pollen, ready to be blown into the air during our hot, dry and windy spring days.

Dr. John E. Dvoracek, Director of Scott & White Healthcare’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, noted that “patients are reporting more allergy symptoms this spring than during the past two or three years” in our area. Dr. Dvoracek explained that people with a history of allergy problems are bound to have more problems if they spend more time outdoors for work or recreation. They should be sure to use their allergy medications before they go outside, especially given the strength of this year’s allergy season.

Dr. Dvoracek also advises allergy suffers to see their physician if symptoms persist despite taking allergy medication. (There’s a helpful slideshow on WebMD describing the 10 allergic symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.)

Allergy Season can Trigger Asthma

The heavy allergy season can also trigger asthma symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath and wheezing. About half of Dr. Dvoracek’s asthma patients also have allergy problems. “Those patients are more likely to have asthma symptoms — or need more medication to prevent symptoms — during heavy allergy seasons.”

I asked Dr. Dvoracek if allergies can lead to asthma in a child or adult who has not been known to suffer from the disease.

“The first episode of asthma symptoms could happen as a result of allergen exposure,” said Dr. Dvoracek. “If that is suspected, the patient should really see a physician, hopefully while they still have symptoms, so a diagnosis can be made. Diagnosing asthma is much easier if the patient is symptomatic when seen by the physician.”

Whether for yourself or for a family member, it’s important to recognize not only the symptoms of asthma, but also the signs of an asthma attack. In fact, the A.D.A.M. health education library recommends that you call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of the following symptoms — all signs of a serious medical emergency:

  • You are having trouble walking or talking because it is so hard to breathe.
  • You are hunching over.
  • Your lips or fingernails are blue or gray.
  • You are breathing very slowly.

With summer vacation now underway for students, they’ll likely be spending more time outdoors with friends and family — and allergens. If your child suffers from allergies or asthma or both, be sure to instruct any caregivers to call 9-1-1 if your child has any of the symptoms described above. It could save your child’s life.

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From Allergies to Asthma: When to Call 9-1-1