Seasonal Allergies While On Oxygen Therapy

As the seasons change, new allergens bloom all around you, pestering your sinuses and breathing. Allergies tend to spell trouble for just about anyone, but they pose specific threats for people who require oxygen therapy to breathe comfortably. Have you ever wondered, “Can allergies make it hard to breathe?” The answer is yes, which is particularly troublesome for anyone already living with breathing difficulties. 

Understanding Which Allergens Affect You Most

The first step to understanding your allergies is learning what is in season in any given month where you live. Each season provides a different source of allergens, which is why some people may struggle with allergies in the fall, but have fewer allergies in the summer. 

Generally speaking, you can expect certain allergens to pop up seasonally and vary slightly depending on your location. During early autumn, weeds like ragweed will take over, followed by mold as the season gets wetter. Mold is typically the most imposing offender in the winter, until spring, which brings a burst of tree and grass pollen. Summer is dominated by weeds, and then by late summer ragweed kicks in again.[1][2]  

You can often get information about the pollen count in your area from your local weather station or newspaper, or you can try the Weather Channel Allergy section.[3] This page gives you access to national pollen maps, pollen forecasts in real-time and a breathing index map so you can plan ahead

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 on-the-go allergy information.[4] An allergist can tell you exactly what 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.

Can Allergies Cause Shortness of Breath?

If you have found yourself wondering, “Can seasonal allergies cause shortness of breath?” the answer is yes. In fact, allergies can cause both shortness of breath and wheezing.[5] Because you breathe in the pollen, mold or other allergens, you’ll see the reaction in your nose, sinuses, throat, ears and lungs. You may even notice a reaction on your skin or in your stomach.[6] 

The impact on your breathing will be even more noticeable if you have a breathing condition like asthma or lung disease requiring oxygen therapy. Allergies can significantly impact your ability to breathe comfortably. This can mean that you require oxygen more frequently, or that your oxygen therapy proves less successful. Can allergies make it hard to breathe? Unfortunately, yes. If you are a supplemental oxygen user, it is absolutely critical to know your allergies and how to treat them. 

Can Allergies Make It Hard to Breathe for Oxygen Therapy Users?

When exposed to allergens, the nerves and glands in the upper and lower respiratory tracts are stimulated.[7] Swelling occurs in these systems, obstructing breathing by hindering flow in airways. Allergens also ignite an increased production of mucus, which further complicates breathing.7 For someone who already struggles with breathing, this can make matters worse. 

People with seasonal allergies and breathing conditions like asthma or lung diseases like COPD could find that it is a potentially dangerous combination. As such, it is essential to monitor your breathing as allergy season progresses. Someone suffering from just allergies might feel irritation in their respiratory system or feel uncomfortable. Someone with a breathing condition will feel their allergies’ effects more intensely, making breathing significantly more challenging.

Researchers at John Hopkins found a connection between “allergic phenotype” and COPD exacerbations.[8] 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. Other researchers have noted that the data indicates that for a subset of COPD patients, allergy plays an important role in the development and progression of the disease.[9] 

Allergies can not only be problematic for people with breathing conditions, but they can also trigger intensified symptoms or worsened illness. The swelling in your nose and sinuses can even reduce the amount of oxygen you can take in through your nose, causing low oxygen levels.[10] For patients who require oxygen therapy, this can be greatly dangerous to their health. 

Treating Your Allergies to Improve Your Oxygen Therapy Results

Women Walking with Pink Peach Trees

Can allergies make it hard to breathe? Yes. Can allergies cause shortness of breath, even if you use oxygen therapy? Yes. So then what can you do about it? 

Thankfully, reducing your exposure to allergens, as well as treating your allergies, can make a big difference for you. There are several measures you can take to ensure that you can breathe as well as possible, even with allergies, so that you can get the most from your oxygen therapy. 

Here are nine tips to reduce your allergies as much as possible.

  •  Reduce your exposure: Start by ensuring that you aren’t getting blasted by allergens at the height of each allergy season. Use the resources provided at the beginning of this article to help you stay up-to-date on the days and times when allergens are at their highest. Try to avoid spending time outside and keep your windows and doors shut during those times. If you must be outdoors when allergens are at their highest, wearing a face mask can help.[1][6]
  •  Keep your home clean and tidy: Allergens can build up on surfaces, so the more clutter there is, the more allergens can accumulate. Work to keep your home free of clutter and make sure you dust with a microfiber cloth regularly and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help filter out allergens.[11][12]
  •  Wash linens regularly: Allergens can also build up on your furniture, linens and sheets. Wash your bedding regularly and change towels regularly as well to reduce your exposure.7
  •  Filter your air: Make sure your air filter in your furnace or air conditioner is rated for allergens and replace it regularly to ensure that it filters well. You can also use your air conditioner in your car to filter the air. If you use an oxygen concentrator, it’s also important to clean the filter in your unit regularly. If you struggle with allergens in your home, try an air purifier with a HEPA filter, particularly in your bedroom.[11]
  •  Keep your body clean: When you have been outdoors during allergy season, change your clothes, take a shower and wash your hair after coming back inside. This will help keep you from continued exposure to pollen or mold spores on your body and clothing.[1][12]
  •  Look out for mold: Make sure you keep your home mold-free, particularly if you live in a humid climate. Fix water leaks quickly, reduce moisture in the house with a dehumidifier if necessary and clean mold with a bleach solution as soon as possible when it appears.[7]
  •  Try breathing exercises: Breathing exercises can help you get breathing under control when you’re struggling and can even help you learn to breathe more effectively. Pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are both beneficial breathing techniques, regardless of your breathing difficulty. Whatever breathing technique works for you, use it at moments of crisis to get your breathing under control when allergies take over.
  •  Take allergy medication: If allergy problems are persistent, the first step is talking to your doctor about allergy medication. There are a variety of over-the-counter options, so it is important to find out what might be best for you and your overall health. If those medications do not feel sufficient, or if your allergies are impacting the efficacy of your oxygen therapy, see an allergist and ask about prescription allergy medications.[6]
  •  Talk to your allergist about allergy shots: If you continue to struggle with your allergies and the way they impact your oxygen therapy, talk to your doctor about allergy shots. Allergen immunotherapy is extremely effective and may help ease your symptoms significantly.[12] 

Treating Your Allergies Is an Important Part of Your Oxygen Therapy

Allergies are unpleasant for just about everyone who has them. However, they can be especially problematic when you are already dealing with breathing difficulties and require oxygen therapy. That is why it is important to treat your allergies effectively. With the right treatment and careful planning, you can reduce your exposure to allergies and ensure that you get effective treatments to minimize the impact allergies have on your oxygen therapy.

Can seasonal allergies cause shortness of breath and make it harder to breathe? Yes, but you do not have to fall victim to your allergies, and you don’t have to be stuck inside for the entirety of allergy season. Work with your doctors to find the right treatments so your allergies don’t get in the way of your oxygen treatments. 

Neither oxygen therapy nor allergies should stand between you and an active, outdoor lifestyle. With the right oxygen delivery device, like an Inogen Portable Oxygen Concentrator, and a thorough understanding of the risks associated with your allergies, you can be smart about how you get outside and enjoy the outdoors. You can breathe easier with the right information and equipment.

There’s no longer a need to wonder, “Can allergies cause shortness of breath?” Learn how to address both your breathing struggles and your allergies by talking to your doctor and contacting Inogen to learn more about how our lightweight portable oxygen concentrators can make oxygen therapy easier for you. Oxygen therapy can help you breathe better, even if you have allergies. Give us a call at 855-MY-INOGEN today to find out more. 

Oxygen. Anytime. Anywhere.

Photo Credit: Weather Channel Pollen Maps, Weather.com

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

 

Sources cited:

[1] “Seasonal Allergies.” ACAAI, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 28 Dec. 2017, acaai.org/allergies/seasonal-allergies. 

[2] “Month By Month Guide to Pollen Allergies.” ZYRTEC®, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., Accessed 17 May 2017, www.zyrtec.com/allergy-guide/understanding-allergies/types/pollen-by-season. 

[3] “The Weather Channel Maps.” The Weather Channel, TWC Product and Technology LLC, Accessed 17 May 2021, weather.com/maps/health/allergies/treepollen. 

[4] “ALLERGY TRACKER TOOL & APP.” ZYRTEC®, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., Accessed 17 May 2017, www.zyrtec.com/allergy-tools/Allergy-forecast-tool. 

[5] “Wheezing, Shortness of Breath.” ACAAI, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 14 Nov. 2018, acaai.org/allergies/allergy-symptoms/wheezing-shortness-breath. 

[6]“Don’t Fear Spring Allergies and Asthma.” American Lung Association, American Lung Association, 14 Apr. 2016, www.lung.org/blog/dont-fear-spring-allergies. 

[7] Foltz-Gray, Dorothy, et al. “How to Manage COPD and Allergies: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, Inc. , 14 Nov. 2017, www.everydayhealth.com/lung-respiratory/copd/how-manage-copd-allergies/. 

[8] Jamieson, Daniel B, et al. “Effects of Allergic Phenotype on Respiratory Symptoms and Exacerbations in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, American Thoracic Society, 15 July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778754/. 

[9] Jin, Jian-Min, and Yong-Chang Sun. “Allergy and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.” Chinese Medical Journal, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 5 Sept. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586167/. 

[10] “4 Things You Should Know About Allergy-Related Fatigue.” Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Fort Worth, Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Fort Worth, 9 July 2020, www.allergyfortworth.com/4-things-you-should-know-about-allergy-related-fatigue. 

[11] Sublett, James L. “HEPA Filters: Help or Hype?” Allergy & Asthma Network, Allergy & Asthma Network, 17 May 2021, allergyasthmanetwork.org/news/hepa-help-hype/. 

[12] “Coughing, Sneezing, Wheezing? You May Have Allergic Asthma.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 24 Aug. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/sneezing-wheezing-short-of-breath-it-may-be-allergic-asthma/.

 
 

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