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Allergy season can trigger new asthma cases

Experts say we're headed for a bad allergy season. When pollen counts go up, so do the number of new asthma cases.
April 7, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts say we're on track for a bad allergy season. And when pollen counts go up, the number of new asthma cases typically does too.

You never know when your body is going to react strongly to pollen or other allergens, but experts say allergies can trigger other health problems you never knew you had.

"Last year, because the pollen counts were so high and the allergy seasons were bad, I had my allergy patients, who've never had asthma symptoms before, get them. So now they have a new diagnosis of asthma," said Dr. Rachel Szekely with the Cleveland Clinic.

Szekely says allergies are a typical asthma trigger, so it's not uncommon to see a particularly bad allergy season expose someone's asthma for the first time. She says you can be genetically predisposed to having asthma, but the time it is triggered varies.

Asthmatics are typically more sensitive to irritants of the airway, which is why allergy season can be troublesome. But Szkeley says it can be tricky diagnosing an asthmatic this time of year.

"It can be sometimes hard to sort out, because a lot of people don't have very serious symptoms. They say, 'Well, I've never had an asthma attack. I haven't been to the hospital because of my asthma.' That's actually a good thing. We don't want that, but even just a chronic cough can be a symptom of asthma and you should get that checked out," said Szkeley.

People who are allergic to cats may have an increased risk for developing adult onset asthma as well. Exposure to cigarette smoke, mold, dust, feather bedding and perfume may also trigger the first asthma symptoms.

Experts also say hormonal changes, such as those that occur with pregnancy and menopause, may play a role in adult onset asthma.

Check out an interactive map of the worst U.S. cities for allergy sufferers.


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