With asthma, everything is great until it is not. I am guilty of slacking when my asthma is doing great and then all of a sudden, whamo! I’m down for the count feeling awful, not able to work and opening up my wallet to pay for doctor’s visits and medications. In hindsight, I realize many of these asthma events were avoidable.
“Prevention is the way to not get in trouble,” explained, pediatric allergist, Dr. Priya Bansal, “this the mantra I live by”. I think I need this message tattooed on my forehead!
The Allergic Asthma struggle is real and I believe everyone wants to keep it at bay! Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month brought important conversations to the table, but the real work starts today as we are freshly equipped with information and prevention ideas! In honor of this special month, I had the opportunity to speak to the highly inspiring Dr. Bansal about Allergic Asthma. Her “Can Do” attitude left me excited wanting to be part of the solution.
Often times, I find myself weary and frustrated with managing asthma. One moment, I am puttering around the kitchen with the windows open and the next, I’m reaching for my inhaler wondering what just blew in or was it something else in my home?
Dr. Bansal made it clear, “Allergic Asthma is inflammation in the airways triggered by an allergen. It can be a microscopic particle”. People can wheeze when close to pets, dust mites or even pollen. Triggers can be any particulate matter, invisible to the naked eye, which causes inflammation and ignites an asthma episode. I’m allergic to mold and when dust is added to this mix, I am primed for big trouble! The problem is we don’t know what we don’t . Often guessing at the root cause of what is causing our problem. Could it be the dust? Tree Pollen? Grass Pollen?
“Not every person has the same reaction, we are all unique. Positive to cat doesn’t tell you which type of reaction you are going to have,” explained Dr. Bansal. “All sorts of reactions can occur: wheezing, itching, etc”. These words are gold! If I was given one dollar for every time someone said to me, “I’m allergic to cats too and my cat doesn’t bother me, you’ll be fine”, I’d be writing this from a tropical island! I own an Aussiedoodle and people tell me the dog is hypoallergenic. There is no such thing. Dog Allergens come from a combination of hair, urine and saliva. My dog has mostly hair and some fur. Unfortunately, he drags pollen into the house and too many licks will bring hives. Somehow, this works for my family.
When I asked Dr. Bansal why should we be concerned with asthma and triggers, she responded “years ago we were told, oh you’re fine! Suck it up. The problem with this approach is there is serious long term damage if asthma is not addressed. Implications include, reduced height, growth, and lung value, damaged lungs (A.K.A, lung remodeling) which causes the airways to get thicker and thicker. These are not reversible”, she solemnly revealed. “The key is coming in (a visit to an allergist) early to prevent remodeling and to keep inflammation down.”
An allergist has many tools available to help diagnose, manage and treat asthma. The advances over the last two decades have been remarkable and are life-saving. Allergists may use spirometry, nitric oxide testing, chest x-rays, peak plow meters, etc, plus skin testing to confirm allergens, such as grass, pollen, etc. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, then medication is considered. This includes rescue medications for when asthma is acute and to be used during an asthma episode and maintenance medications taken daily to prevent acute situations. Everyone’s asthma is unique and must be treated as such. “Food allergies combined with asthma, makes the reaction riskier, it elevates your base line,” cautioned Dr. Bansal.
Often overlooked, is correctly pinpointing allergens within the home or workspace. For example, if you are allergic to ragweed pollen and ragweed pollens is identified as your major source of allergen exposure, then removing shoes and hanging up your jacket in a hall closet or garage before entering your home will help reduce the amount of ragweed allergen brought inside. After speaking to Dr. Bansal, my family is diligently wiping down our dog before he enters our home after a nice long doggy outdoor playtime. This has made a difference in our spring !
I also had the honor of speaking to Prasanthi Gandhi, co-founder and CEO at Exhale. I was intrigued with their work to reduce indoor allergens, since my daughter goes through enough Kleenex boxes to kill an entire forest! Exhales offers a service which measures the allergens present in your room! Customers simply plug in a device for five days, drop it in the mail to send to Exhale labs and within two weeks discuss their results and an action plan specific to them and their environment with an Exhale rep. I understand the value of this as my daughter had to be moved to a different seat assignment in school. Her teacher finally pinpointed that my child was experiencing asthma symptoms due to cigarette smoke off gassing from her seatmate! We thought the classroom had an allergic trigger and were pulling out our hair trying to determine what allergen was present. Exhale could have saved us this added stress, and taken the guesswork out of the picture.
The good news is we can identify our allergens so that we may execute targeted environmental clean up and try not get into trouble in the first place. Dr. Priya Bansal mantra on prevention is now my family mantra for asthma and allergies!
Bonus for Gratefulfoodie readers: Exhale has extended a 10% discount to our readers, simply use the code gratefulfoodie to enjoy this kind offer.
Disclaimer: I was not paid by Exhale to mention them or my conversation with Dr. Bansal. I am quite excited to share information and possible solutions that might improve your quality of life. As we know, each breath in life counts.