Dealing with Allergies & COPD

The warm weather has arrived! For some parts of the country, it was not a minute too soon. While this is largely a welcomed change in the climate, it isn’t without its negative effects. Allergens descend on us this time of year and do not stop pestering our sinuses and breathing until well into summer. Allergies spell trouble for just about anyone, but they pose specific threats for people who suffer from COPD.

1. What’s Emerging When?

The first step to understanding your allergies is learning what is in season in a given month. This spring the biggest culprits are strains of tree pollen, mold pollen, and grass pollen, and this season figures to be one of the worst in recent memory.

The Weather Channel Allergy section is full of valuable information including Pollen Maps, Pollen Forecasts in real time, and allergy tips. An allergist can tell you what exactly you are allergic to, but tools like this can tell you when and where to be on the lookout for your particular irritants. Enter your zip code and become better informed on the allergens in your environment.

The Weather Channel Tree Pollen Map

Another tool for live pollen projections is the Zyrtec Allergy Forecast Tool, which can also be downloaded as an app for the on-the-go allergy information.

2. The Effect on COPD

The link between COPD and allergies is not entirely known, but there are a few connections to breathing that we can draw, as well as a growing number of studies being published that aim to reveal that answer in more detail.

When exposed to allergens, the nerves and glands in the upper and lower respiratory tracts are stimulated. Swelling occurs in these systems, obstructing breathing by hindering flow in airways. Allergens also ignite an increased production in mucus, which further complicates breathing. COPD and seasonal allergies are a potentially dangerous combination, and it is essential to monitor them as the season progresses. Someone suffering from allergies might feel irritated or uncomfortable, but someone with COPD who is suffering from allergies will feel the allergies’ effects more intensely.

Researchers at John Hopkins found a connection between “allergic phenotype” and COPD exacerbations. Published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the study shows that COPD patients who also suffer from seasonal allergies have higher levels of symptoms and have a greater risk of flare-ups.

Women Walking with Pink Peach Trees

3. Taking Control

There are several measures that someone can take if they suffer from both COPD and allergies:

  • Allergy Medication – If allergy problems are persistent, the first step is getting medication under the guidance of your physician. There are a variety of over-the-counter options, so it is important to learn what works for you. When those medications do not feel sufficient, it’s necessary to see an allergist and ask about prescription allergy medications.
  • Lifestyle Actions – Medication can protect your body, but it won’t keep the allergens and irritants away. There are measures that you can take and do on an ongoing basis in order to minimize your risk of irritation and flare-ups. Actions that anyone can take include: change air filters regularly, vacuum regularly, wash bedding, reduce moisture in the house in order to stave off mold, and wash hair, hands, and clothing when coming in from outside.
  • Breathing Exercises – when experiencing a flare-up, it is important to get your breathing under control. Pursed-lip breathing helps you exhale more with each breath. Whatever breathing technique works for you, use it at moments of crisis in order to get your breathing under control and deal with your allergy.

Allergies can be especially problematic when you are already dealing with COPD. That is why it is important to be especially careful in your preparation and planning this Spring. Neither COPD nor allergies should stand between you and an active, outdoor lifestyle, as long as you learn what risks are associated with allergies and how to address them.

Follow Inogen on Facebook for allergy updates all spring!

 

Photo Credit: Weather Channel Pollen Maps, Weather.com

Photo Credit: Women with pinky-peach trees, @ms.akr, Flickr

 

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