Cheat Sheet

Asthma For Dummies

From Asthma For Dummies by William E. Berger, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Foreword by)

Asthma, although termed a lung condition, affects the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and stomach, as well. Any number of allergens can trigger an asthmatic reaction, even changes in the weather. A condition so prevalent also produces a fair number of myths — many of which lead only to confusion and misinformation.

Major Myths about Asthma and Allergies

You encounter a lot of myths and misinformation about asthma and allergies. The untruths and misconceptions about asthma spread like pollen in springtime. The following list includes incorrect statements you should never fall for:

Moving to Arizona will cure my asthma and allergies. My friends and family say that my asthma is all in my head. I'll try to drop by my doctor's office for allergy shots when it's convenient for me. I don't need to stick to a regular schedule for immunotherapy.
A cat or dog with short hair is safer for my asthma than a long-haired pet. The only medication I'll ever need for my asthma is a quick-relief, over-the-counter (OTC) rescue inhaler such as albuterol, Proventil, or Ventolin. I don't need to check with my doctor. I can just give my child half an adult dose of my asthma or allergy medication.
Asthma is contagious. I get stomach cramps and diarrhea every time I drink milk, so I must be allergic to it. Nothing's going to happen during the flight, so why bother packing my asthma and allergy medications in my carry-on bag?
I can't exercise because I have asthma. Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is just a minor annoyance and won't cause any serious problems. I'll figure out how to use an epinephrine kit (for example, EpiPen) when I need it.
I just have a recurring chest cold. I don't need to check for asthma. I can take as many OTC medications as I want, because if I don't need a prescription for them, these products probably don't cause any side effects. Besides, my doctor didn't prescribe them, so it's none of his or her business if I'm taking them. I can't do much to improve my asthma, so I'll have to settle for less and just live with my condition.
My children don't need to be evaluated or treated for asthma because they'll outgrow it anyway. I should stop taking all my allergy and asthma medication while I'm pregnant.

Asthma-Related Problems

Asthma patients often have problems beyond the typical wheezing associated with the condition. Asthma and allergic rhinitis can influence not only your lungs, but your head and digestive system, as well. Parts of the body where asthma-sufferers face problems include:

  • Airways of lungs: Asthma, food hypersensitivities, and anaphylaxis (a widespread, potentially life-threatening reaction that affects many organs simultaneously)

  • Eyes: Allergic conjunctivitis

  • Ears: Otitis media, which is an inflammation of the middle ear, often leading to an ear infection — a frequent complication of allergic rhinitis

  • Gastrointestinal tract: Food hypersensitivities and anaphylaxis

  • Nose: Allergic rhinitis, which is the medical term for hay fever

  • Sinus: Sinusitis — inflammation of the sinuses, a frequent complication of allergic rhinitis

  • Throat: Allergic rhinitis and/or pharyngitis (a complication of postnasal drip associated with allergic rhinitis), and food hypersensitivities

Common Asthma Triggers

An asthma attack can be brought on by any number of triggers. Asthma triggers can range from certain animal dander to weather changes. Whatever your asthma triggers are, be aware that all the items in the following list can spark a reaction in some people:

  • Animal dander — especially from cats and dogs

  • Air pollution and weather changes

  • Dust mites

  • Occupational irritants and allergens

  • Mold spores and pollens from certain grasses, weeds, and trees

  • Other ailments, including rhinitis, sinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and viral infections

  • Exercise

  • Household products

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

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