If You Think You May Have Allergies or Asthma, You’ll Want to Read This

I just found out…a little late…that this is National Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month. While allergies and asthma are no laughing matter, the title of it did make me chuckle a little, because anyone with either of those maladies is already well aware of its presence.

Hay fever is something that’s fairly new to me. I don’t remember having it at anytime in my life before these last 10 years, though I’ve pretty much always been allergic to something. Whether it was cigarette smoke, cat dander, lactose, or what have you, there was always some allergen trying to pick a fight with me.

If you think you might be an allergy or asthma sufferer as well, but have yet to be diagnosed, check your symptoms against those in the following lists. (Besides asthma, I chose only to list symptoms for the two “big” allergies: hay fever and cat allergy.) You’ll want to follow up with your doctor if your symptoms are severe.

Hay Fever Symptoms

Image credit: Petr Kratochvil

* Runny nose and nasal congestion
* Watery or itchy eyes
* Sneezing
* Cough
* Itchy nose, roof of mouth, or throat
* Sinus pressure and facial pain
* Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
* Decreased sense of smell or taste
(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Hay fever symptoms usually hit right after you’re exposed to the specific allergen that causes them for you and, more often than not, at a specific time of year. For me, May is my worst month (hence, I am fully aware…sorry, couldn’t resist), and my symptoms (crazy sneezing and nasal congestion) seem to be triggered by pollen. Now I’m just waiting for the cottonwood trees to release their seeds. There are always so many each spring that it looks like snow on the ground…and my sneezing (etc.) goes into overdrive.

If your symptoms are bad, have your doctor prescribe something. Over-the-counter Sudafed seems to work well for me, if I take anything at all.

Cat Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of cat allergy can include:

* coughing and wheezing
* hives or a rash on the chest and face
* red, itchy eyes
* redness of the skin where a cat has scratched, bitten, or licked you
* runny, itchy, stuffy nose
* sneezing
(Source: WebMD)

Chico, my tuxedo boy

According to WebMD, “about 10% of the U.S. population has pet allergies, and cats are among the most common culprits. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. But contrary to what you might think, it’s not the fur or hair that’s the real problem. People with cat allergies are really allergic to proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander (dried flakes of skin).”

What I’ve heard, and it may or may not be true, is that cats with black fur put more allergens into the air than other cats. And wouldn’t you know it: I have a cat with black fur. He’s a “tuxedo cat” and not entirely black, but it seems it’s enough to send my allergies into a…uh…hissy fit. Will I ever give him up? Never! He’s my “baby,” and he knows it.

Because some of the symptoms of cat allergy can resemble hay fever, your doctor will need to do a skin or blood test to be sure. If the results are positive, don’t get rid of Fluffy just yet: Your doctor can prescribe certain medications (okay, so sometimes it’s a shot) to help you deal with your kitty allergies. And hey, there’s even talk now of a vaccine to help cat allergy sufferers.

Asthma Symtoms

* Coughing, especially at night
* Wheezing
* Shortness of breath
* Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
(Source: WebMD)

Because asthma is so serious, please do NOT try to self-diagnose. We had one big experience with asthma when my oldest son was in his mid-teens (he’s 19 now, but it still seems like so long ago). He was trying to swim in a lake, but found himself unable to breathe and had to be rescued by one of his friends (to whom we will be forever grateful). The doctor said it was exercise-induced asthma.

We know full well we could have lost him that day. Did he have earlier symptoms that could have clued us in to his being susceptible to asthma? I can’t think of any, but it’s possible he did have some that we missed. We don’t have a family history or asthma, so my son’s experience with it was a real surprise. Please take some time to read the information at the following websites to educate yourself on the symptoms — and seriousness — of asthma.

WebMD’s Asthma Guide: http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/asthma-overview-facts

Overview on Asthma from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021

More on Asthma from eMedicine Health: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/asthma/article_em.htm

And finally, you’ll want to see if your city made it on the list of the 10 worst cities for asthma. If you live near one of them, you’ll want to be extra vigilant.

That said, see your doctor if necessary, but don’t let allergies or asthma keep you from enjoying the beautiful outdoors this spring! I’ll be out there gardening right beside you…after I take my Sudafed.

Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sdinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here.