Ah-choo!

May is “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month,” as more than 50 million Americans have allergies and 23 million have asthma, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The most common symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or when breathing interferes with physical activity,” says Amber Watts, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Allergies are known to cause asthma, but this is not always the case.”

There are two main types of treatment for asthma: a rescue inhaler or maintenance therapy that includes two inhaled medications, a steroid and a beta-agonist. Though significant lifestyle changes are unnecessary, there are some important asthma triggers to try to avoid such as pollen, cigarette smoke and pet dandruff, Dr. Watts says.

Allergy triggers are very similar to asthma but include a wide range of categories such as indoor/outdoor, pet, food, insect, skin and eye allergies.

People with asthma and/or allergies should consult their pharmacist or physician about the proper ways to take their medications.

“For both asthma and allergies, it is very important to take the medications exactly as they are prescribed to you,” Dr. Watts says. “This includes proper use of any inhalers that are given to an individual. Specifically, children should be instructed how to use these properly and can be given a device called a spacer to help.”

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