Spring is a tough time for Minnesotans with asthma. They deal with two of the top triggers: spring allergies and outside exercise.

Spring Allergies

Sure, spring allergies are a pain. But, for those with asthma, allergies can be life threatening. Asthma attacks, which can be triggered by allergies, are very scary, especially for those who are not prepared with medications to open their airways.

During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways becomes swollen or inflamed and thicker mucus -- more than normal -- is produced. An asthma attack makes it difficult to breathe. It also causes wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities. Left untreated, an asthma attack can cause the sufferer to lose consciousness and can lead to death.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

After a long, cold, snowy winter (and part of spring!) indoors, we all want to get outside to walk, run, ride our bikes and FINALLY move our bodies in the fresh air. However, in spring, the colder, drier air that asthma sufferers inhale while exercising triggers the muscle bands around the airways to contract and narrow. This happens because the airways of an asthma sufferer are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes. The result is coughing, difficulty breathing, unusual fatigue and even an asthma attack.

Avoid Triggers

People with allergies to molds, dust mites and pollen are usually prone to getting asthma attacks from new smells or very strong odors. Because of this, people with allergies should try to avoid dusting in the home or being in extremely dusty areas. Other asthma triggers include infections like the common cold and cigarette smoke.

Wear Allergy Bracelets

During a seasonal asthma attack or severe allergic reaction, a patient often can barely speak due to shortness of breath. If this occurs in a strange place where no one knows allergies or asthma are involved, the result could be fatal. To avoid any unnecessary suffering, it is recommended that every asthmatic wear one or more allergy bracelets at all times. These are medical identity badges that list allergies or medical conditions.

Treating and Preventing Asthma Attacks

Asthma is treated with two types of medicines: long-term control and quick-relief medicines. Long-term control medicines like inhaled corticosteroids help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms. Quick-relief, or “rescue,” medicines like inhaled short-acting beta2-atonists help relieve asthma symptoms that may flare up.

When Medicines Don’t Work

Asthma sufferers need to be particularly aware of their condition and whether the medicine prescribed is properly controlling their symptoms. Here are signs that an asthma sufferer may need immediate medical attention.

In Adults:

• Breathing gets worse

• You need to use your inhaler more than every 4 hours or you can’t get relief from your inhaler

• Feeling weak or ill

• You develop new symptoms such as chest pain

• You cough up blood

• You are vomiting enough that you can’t keep fluids or your medicine down

In Children:

• Breathing fast

• Struggling to breathe

• Turning blue around lips and fingernails

• Making wheezing sounds

• Chest pulls in between the ribs or over the

collar bones

Early and aggressive asthma treatment is key to relieving symptoms and preventing asthma attacks. If you think you may have asthma or are worried about how well your asthma is controlled, be sure to talk to your doctor or visit us at The Urgency Room.

— Dr. Kurt Belk an ER physician and medical director of The Urgency Room in Vadnais Heights

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