An allergy blog by Dr. Joseph Pflanzer, specializes in the diagnosis and management of asthma, allergy and clinical immunology, including such conditions as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), sinusitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), food allergy, anaphylaxis, drug allergy, angioedema (swelling) candidas, conjunctivitis and many others.
Nearly 25 million Americans have asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This lung condition can make breathing a challenge and cause coughing or wheezing. While scientists haven't found a definitive cause behind asthma, some environmental issues can prompt attacks. If you or a loved one has asthma, take a look at some of the most common asthma triggers.
Heat and Humidity
Heavy, hot air makes breathing difficult for almost everyone - especially if you have asthma. The rise in body temperature that high heat levels can cause often leads to excessive sweating. The more you sweat, the more water you lose. Dehydration can result in rapid or labored breathing, triggering an asthma attack.
Along with heat-related water loss, sudden changes in air temperature can put stress on the lungs. Moving from a chilly indoor environment (when the air conditioning is on) to a heated outdoor one can also set-off an attack.
On hot days, asthmatics should remain indoors (somewhere that is cool) as much as possible. If you have to go outside, take all required medications and keep yourself hydrated by drinking water. Avoid soda and caffeinated beverages. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, leaving you even more dehydrated than you were before drinking.
Extreme heat isn't always to blame for temperature-related asthma attacks or increased symptoms. Cold is also a trigger for some asthmatics. The cold air can increase mucous production and leave your airways feeling dry. This can worsen symptoms, making you cough, wheeze, or have trouble catching your breath.
Along with taking all prescribed medications, avoid extreme cold, drink plenty of water to thin mucous secretions, and cover your mouth and nose with a zippered coat or a scarf during outdoor activity.
Air Quality and Pollution
Car exhaust, manufacturing byproducts, and other air contaminants can create a source of strife for many asthmatics. Decades worth of research supports the theory that human-created air pollution worsens asthma symptoms. Pollution-induced symptoms may include greater difficulty breathing, coughing, discomfort, or a burning sensation in the lungs, according to the Environmental protection Agency (EPA). This is a different type of trigger than indoor air quality issues, such as dust mites or pet dander.
The EPA notes that the two top pollutants affecting asthmatics are ozone ad particle pollution. Ozone pollution, which is found in smog, is at its worst during the heat of the summer or during any excessively hot day, regardless of the season. Particle pollution is typically highest during calm weather, near busy roads, near factories and in places that are near to fires.
While completely avoiding pollution isn't always possible, the asthmatic can reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors during peak ozone or particle pollution hours and weather. You should also keep your windows closed when driving in traffic or near factories that emit smoke or other airborne discharge.
Stress and Emotions
Not all asthma triggers come from outside of your body. Stress and powerful emotions are internal factors that may set-off an attack. Increased anxiety, panic, and other strong feelings can result in shortness of breath, worsening your symptoms.
Unlike hot days or air pollution, you can't always stay away from stress. If your stress level is causing your medical condition to get progressively worse or you're having more asthma attacks, a therapist can help to reduce the effects of the emotional or psychological issues. In some serious cases, anxiety may require a combination of medication and therapy.
You can also reduce the likelihood of developing stress-related asthma attacks by practicing meditation or by learning relaxation exercises. Some types of physical activity, such as yoga, can also reduce psychological stressors. Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise or activity routine.
Many people live with food allergies. Food allergies result in the body treating normal, otherwise harmless ingredients as invaders they must fight. While most people think of seasonal allergies when they think about allergies, food allergies can result in serious, life-affecting conditions.
The results of food allergies can be devastating, even fatal. Anaphylaxis requires quick treatment and know-how from others in the workplace. For this reason, education about allergies is crucial.
If you have food allergies and are trying to navigate these types of problems in the workplace, then you may need some suggestions. This guide will help you create a plan of action for contending with food allergies at work.
Common Food Allergies
Some of the most common food allergies people face at work include those linked to nuts. Peanut allergies are among the most common food allergies, and the reactions often carry on for the rest of one's life. Shellfish, while an uncommon food for the workplace, is another common food allergy. Shrimp and lobster are common culprits.
Of course, many other food allergies exist. For example, some people are allergic to wheat, whereas others can't eat eggs.
Employers should develop an understanding of these food allergies because they can directly impact employee morale and productivity. When employees have to take days off work to deal with allergies, the business loses.
Common Food Allergy Accommodations for Work
The Americans with Disabilities Act considers food allergies a type of disability. This means that some workplaces may be required to accommodate individuals with allergies to an extent.
Many people are surprised how much food allergies can impact an individual. You might think of severe food allergies as a type of invisible disability that can have effects at any time.
If you have food allergies, then you should always bring them up right after a new employer hires you. When you discuss allergies with your manager or boss, make sure to be as specific as possible about the circumstances involved.
Training programs and seminars may provide more insight about food allergies in the workplace. In training, employers can bring up specific examples and educate employers about how to avoid causing an incident.
Signage can also educate employees about food allergies. For example, posters hanging in the office kitchen can tell employees what to do if somebody exhibits signs of anaphylaxis.
In cases of extreme allergies, a workplace may set aside utensils and dishes that individuals with food allergies can use to avoid potential contaminants.
Managers and employers can also request that all individuals working in the facility label food clearly, marking any potentially hazardous ingredients on the outside of a container.
When individuals do not adhere to established guidelines, employers can take disciplinary action if necessary.
Common Ways to Make Your Workplace Safe
You can also take a few steps to help your workforce be a safer place. These steps might save your life and the lives of others at work with similar allergies.
If you are going out with a group of co-workers or you are having a luncheon at the office, then you should address severe allergies early on. If you are unable to go to specific restaurants, then let the group know that this food is dangerous to you.
Mistakes can happen. Make sure that you have epinephrine on hand if you need it. Before going to lunch, you can also instruct your co-workers on how they can use the epinephrine during an emergency.
The Allergic Diagnostic & Treatment Clinic offers treatment for all types of allergies. If you suspect that you have food allergies, then you should be tested right away. Call today to set up an appointment.