Seasonal Allergies and COPD: Tips to Avoid Complications
COPD: An Overview
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung conditions usually made up of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is commonly linked to a history of smoking cigarettes. The condition results in airway blockages and causes serious breathing difficulties. Symptoms include:
- persistent cough
- shortness of breath
- feeling winded after activities that weren’t difficult in the past
- coughing up mucus
Why Do I Have Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are very common. Millions of people deal with the itchy, watery eyes and stuffy noses caused by seasonal allergies every day. These symptoms occur when your immune system reacts to pollen or mold that you’ve inhaled, and fights it as if it were a bacteria or a virus. People with COPD seem to be more likely to develop other breathing conditions. Of course, if you have COPD, you have enough trouble breathing already.
Are My Allergies Serious?
Seasonal allergies are just a nuisance for most people. For COPD patients, however, any extra condition that makes breathing difficult is automatically more serious. According to one recent study at the Johns Hopkins Allergy and Asthma Center, COPD patients with seasonal allergies suffered from worsened respiratory symptoms like coughing and wheezing. They were also significantly more likely to need medical treatment for their symptoms.
How Can I Avoid Serious Complications?
The best thing you can do is avoid potential allergens. Unfortunately, allergens are all around. If you know your triggers, you already have a head start. You can take steps now to reduce your contact with specific allergens that worsen your symptoms. Read on for tips on avoiding common allergens that could make your COPD symptoms worse.
Know Before You Go
Check out the National Allergy Bureau’s website before you leave the house. They have a great interactive map you can use to find the current pollen and mold counts for your area. You can dig even deeper and find the levels for particular types of pollen, including trees, weeds, and grass. You may wish to plan outings on days when pollen and mold levels are lower to reduce your allergy symptoms.
It’s best to stay inside when the air quality in your area is poor. For COPD patients, an Air Quality Index of above 100 can wreak havoc on respiratory symptoms. A good resource for checking air quality is AirNow. If you have to go outside, try wearing a mask to filter allergens and irritants. When you get home, change your clothes and maybe even jump in the shower to keep from spreading pollen throughout your house.
Treat Your Symptoms
As soon as you notice itchy eyes or a runny nose, take an over-the-counter antihistamine. Medications like Benadryl and Zyrtec can stop your immune response to allergy triggers in its tracks, preventing serious breathing difficulties. Nasal steroids, decongestants, and inhalers can help open clogged airways.
Allergy-Proof Your Environment
Install a good filtration system in your air conditioner, and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high. Buy a cabin air filter for your car that is specifically designed to keep allergens out. Vacuum and dust regularly to get rid of any pollen or mold spores that you may have tracked in from outside.
Talk to Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about your allergy symptoms, and how seasonal allergies affect your COPD. He or she may want you to try a prescription allergy medication. They may also advise you to use your inhaler more often during peak allergy season. A skin test can help determine exactly which allergens give you problems. Allergy shots may be recommended for preventing further complications.
- Combat allergy season. (n.d.). National Emphysema Foundation. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.emphysemafoundation.org/index.php/prevention/pollution-and-the-environment/85-pollution-and-the-environment-articles/125-combat-allergy-season
- COPD: Definition. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seo/basics/definition/con-20032017
- Jamieson, D.B. et al. (2013, July). Effects of allergic phenotype on respiratory symptoms and exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 188(2), 187-192. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.201211-2103OC?journalCode=ajrccm - .UvAqEHddWME
- National Allergy Bureau. (n.d.). American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts.aspx
- Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud. (2012, July 17). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/in-depth/seasonal-allergies/art-20048343
- Today’s AQI forecast. (n.d.). AirNow.gov. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.main