National Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month

May is National Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month. May was chosen as the awareness month by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America because it is the peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers. To honor the observance of both of these chronic conditions, I am going to give a brief overview of each.

Allergies Overview

Allergies are diseases of the immune system that cause an overreaction of a substance known as allergens. Allergies are placed into different categories:

  • By trigger
  • By season
  • By symptoms and where they appear on the body

Examples of different kinds of allergies include:

  • skin allergies
  • eye allergies
  • food & drug allergies
  • indoor & outdoor allergies (ie. hay fever, seasonal, perennial, nasal)
  • latex allergies
  • insect allergies


Asthma Overview

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects approximately 20 million people in the United States. Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes the airways to become blocked. This in turn makes it difficult for the person to breathe. Asthma is categorized into two types:

  • Allergic asthma
  • Non-allergic asthma

Many of the symptoms for both categories are the same: wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and rapid breathing.

Allergic asthma is determined when symptoms occur from an allergic reaction. Allergic asthma is airway obstruction and inflammation that is partially reversible with medication. As the most common form of asthma, allergic asthma affects more than 50% of all patients.

Factors that trigger allergic asthma include:

  • dust mite allergen
  • pet dander
  • mold
  • pollen

Non-allergic asthma is triggered by factors that are not related to allergies. Non-allergic asthma is also characterized by inflammation and airway obstruction that is partially reversible with medication.

Factors that can trigger non-allergic asthma include:

  • stress
  • exercise
  • anxiety
  • cold and/or dry air
  • smoke
  • viruses
  • hyperventilation