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Those with asthma and allergies feel the impact of high pollen levels

Published in Allergy & Asthma Services, For the Health of It Author: Mary Keating,MD Author: Mary Keating, MD

Late spring and early summer signals the end of the school year and the start of something else: peak allergy season.

Since late April, the St. Cloud area has experienced either “high” or “medium-high” pollen levels for all but a handful of days. The reason is all around us.

In Minnesota, tree pollen levels are highest at the beginning of the spring. And then grass pollen levels are added to the mix in the late spring and early summer. This combination is a 1-2 punch for those who experience seasonal allergies or hayfever. And high pollen levels can also be serious for those with asthma.

If you have asthma, you may be sensitive to “triggers” that can cause changes in one’s airway and cause asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Besides pollen, other common asthma triggers include:

  • dust mites, molds and animals
  • irritants such as smoke, smog and other air pollutants
  • colds, flu and other illnesses
  • certain medicines
  • exercise
  • weather (especially cold air or humidity)
  • even strong emotions like anger, laughing or crying can change your breathing and cause an asthma attack

During an asthma attack, you may need quick-relief medicine and/or emergency medical care to help you breathe normally again. But once you know what triggers your asthma, you can work to avoid or limit contact with these items.

Besides medication, there are other things those who suffer from high pollen levels can do to limit their exposure. These include:

  • closing the windows in your home and car and running the air conditioner
  • taking a shower at night to wash allergens from your skin and hair
  • use clothes dryer, don’t hang clothes or sheets outside to dry
  • regularly changing the furnace and air filters in your home

Talk to your health care provider to learn what you can do about your seasonal allergies. And if you have asthma, you can work with your health care provider to develop an “Asthma Action Plan” that details what steps to take depending on how your condition makes you feel.