May is Na­tional Asthma and Al­lergy Aware­ness month

The Weekly Vista - - Community -

May is Na­tional Asthma and Al­lergy Aware­ness Month, ac­cord­ing to the Asthma and Al­lergy Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica. Rachel Luck­ett, ex­ten­sion spe­cial­ist-nutri­tion for the Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion Pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas at Pine Bluff, says Arkansans can start to cope with the chal­lenges of al­ler­gies by bet­ter un­der­stand­ing them.

“Al­ler­gies con­sti­tute some of the most com­mon chronic dis­eases,” she said. “Al­ler­gic re­ac­tions oc­cur when a per­son’s im­mune sys­tem re­acts to an al­ler­gen — a for­eign sub­stance that could be po­ten­tially harm­ful.”

Ac­cord­ing to the AAFA, an al­ler­gen could be some­thing a per­son eats, in­hales, touches or in­jects into the body. The im­mune sys­tem’s re­ac­tion could cause cough­ing, sneez­ing, itchy eyes, a runny nose or a scratchy throat. In se­vere cases, it can cause rashes, hives, low blood pres­sure, breath­ing trou­ble, asthma at­tacks or even death.

Luck­ett said more than 50 mil­lion Amer­i­cans ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous types of al­ler­gies each year, and al­ler­gies are the sixth lead­ing cause of chronic ill­ness in the na­tion. Com­mon al­ler­gies in­clude food, drug, pollen, in­sect, pet, mold, la­tex and skin al­ler­gies.

“Milk al­lergy is the most com­mon food al­lergy in the U.S.,” Luck­ett said. “One to 2 per­cent of chil­dren in the U.S. are di­ag­nosed with hav­ing this al­lergy.”

The tree nut al­lergy is the sec­ond most com­mon food al­lergy to af­fect Amer­i­can chil­dren. Soy al­lergy is also rel­a­tively com­mon, but most chil­dren out­grow al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to soy around the age of 10. Other com­mon food al­ler­gies in­clude al­ler­gies to wheat, as well as to fish and shell­fish.

To iden­tify and treat al­ler­gies, Arkansans should al­ways con­sult with their physi­cian. Doc­tors di­ag­nose al­ler­gies by:

• Re­view­ing the med­i­cal back­ground of pa­tients and their fam­ily mem­bers.

• Per­form­ing a phys­i­cal exam.

• Per­form­ing tests that iden­tify spe­cific al­ler­gies.

Treat­ment strate­gies in­clude med­i­ca­tion, the pur­pose­ful avoid­ance of al­ler­gens or im­munother­apy, which trains the im­mune sys­tem to not coun­ter­act an al­ler­gen.

“Al­ler­gies can prove dis­rup­tive as peo­ple go about their daily lives at home, work and school,” Luck­ett said. “Stay­ing in­formed about al­ler­gens and al­ler­gic re­ac­tions and vis­it­ing the doc­tor when nec­es­sary can help Arkansans deal with this com­mon dis­ease.”

Asthma af­fects al­most 25 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. It is a chronic dis­ease that causes your air­ways to be­come in­flamed, mak­ing it hard to breathe. There is no cure for asthma. The best way to man­age asthma is to avoid trig­gers, take med­i­ca­tions to pre­vent symp­toms and pre­pare to treat asthma episodes if they oc­cur. Peo­ple with asthma usu­ally see a doc­tor that spe­cial­izes in al­ler­gies or the im­mune sys­tem. You and your doc­tor will come up with a plan to treat your asthma. It of­ten in­volves a blend of med­i­ca­tion and avoid­ing trig­gers.

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