ALLERGIC LIVING |
Certified Educators take yourasthma and allergy questions.
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Q. Recently our 5-year-old was diagnosed with asthmaand we are working to understand the disease and gaincontrol. He’ll be playing soccer outdoors this spring; theﬁrst time he’s taken part in an organized sport. How canwe make sure his asthma doesn’t ﬂare up on the ﬁeld?
Spring allergies, such as tree pollen and grass, canbe a trigger for some asthmatics. Combine this with exercise andsome people can run into trouble. The key is to achieve asthmacontrol before he begins to play soccer, which means using hisprescribed medications appropriately. Asthmatics should notfeel limited by exercise or activity if their asthma is controlled.Having his rescue inhaler available at the field is a requirement.He could also take a non-sedating antihistamine before playing,if he is bothered by allergic symptoms.
Q. I’m in my ﬁfties, and have struggled with severe asthmaall my life. I’ve been hearing about the drug Xolair lately.What’s your opinion of it for someone like me?
Xolair is a drug for asthma that requires an injec-tion once or twice a month. Asthma experts are seeing encour-aging results with it, and you could ask your specialist about thedrug. However, it is not covered by many insurance companiesand is very expensive. To qualify for coverage in most provinces you will also need a specialist to support that your asthma issevere.Before pursuing Xolair as a treatment option, make sure theasthma basics have been covered. Have you had allergy testingand done your best to avoid or eliminate allergens that trigger your asthma? Have you addressed all causes of rhinitis and postnasal drip? Do you have gastric esophageal reflux disease, char-acterized by regular heartburn and nighttime awakenings withcoughing, wheezing, sore throat and shortness of breath? If these issues have been addressed and you have allergic asthmathat is resistant to treatment, ask your doctor for a referral to arespirologist or allergist and speak to that specialist about Xolair.
Q. I consider my asthma under control but when I visit myin-laws’ farm, I get symptoms and need my reliever. Whatcould be triggering my asthma, and how can I deal with this?
Many things can trigger your asthma whenvisiting a farm. Some barns have high temperatures, humidity and poor ventilation, which can promote mould growth and isan ideal setting for dust mites. Other triggers include grain, graindust and mould found in fields.Many farm animals are also triggers, including horses, cattle,sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, geese and ducks. You may need toadjust your controller medication when visiting the farm toreduce the need of your reliever. Trigger avoidance is also impor-tant; make sure to keep windows closed when indoors andshower after spending time outdoors to rinse away allergens.
Q. How can I prepare my 7-year-old for spirometry testing?
Kids are often concerned when you tell them they are having testing done at their doctor’s appointment. I wouldexplain to him that this is a very simple test that does not hurt atall. He will have to blow into a machine that measures how muchair he can blow out of his lungs, and how fast. Be sure to find outahead of time which inhalers he needs to stop before the test andfor how long. It’s also a good idea not to have a large meal or doany vigorous activity prior to spirometry testing.
Q. I’m allergic to birch and maple tree pollen. Would gettingallergy shots for those help my asthma control – or am Ilikely to still need to increase my controller meds in spring?
Things you are allergic to can cause inflam-mation in your lungs. Allergy shots can be an effective way todecrease allergy symptoms, thereby helping control your asthma.They begin to take effect over a period of six to 12 months. You willthen continue to get shots for three to five years. If effective, aller-gy shots can be a good way to help control your asthma and canlead to a decrease in the amount of controller medication needed.
Q. I’m a graduate of hairdressing school and got a great job four months ago. But sometimes in the salon, I havebreathing difﬁculty. Could this be a form of asthma? Icertainly don’t want to give up on my career!
Shortness of breath does not necessarily mean you have asthma. If you are only experiencing your symptoms atwork this could indicate a reaction to one of many chemicals inthe salon. My suggestion is to note the time and the tasks beingperformed when the symptoms occur. Make an appointmentwith your doctor who can determine if you need allergy tests ora breathing test or both. As well, if you figure out that a particu-lar chemical or work procedure sets off your breathing, try toarranging with your workplace to avoid that task or chemical.
Shona Elder is a pharmacist and CRE in Regina; Olsen Jarvis is a respiratory therapist and CRE in Winnipeg; Lindsay Douglas is a registered nurse and CAE in Windsor, Ont.
Lindsay DouglasShona ElderOlsen Jarvis