COPD: An Overview
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung
conditions usually made up of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is
commonly linked to a history of smoking cigarettes. The condition results in
airway blockages and causes serious breathing difficulties. Symptoms include:
- persistent cough
- shortness of breath
- feeling winded after activities that weren’t difficult in
- coughing up mucus
Why Do I Have Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are very common. Millions of people deal with
the itchy, watery eyes and stuffy noses caused by seasonal allergies every day.
These symptoms occur when your immune system reacts to pollen or mold that
you’ve inhaled, and fights it as if it were a bacteria or a virus. People with
COPD seem to be more likely to develop other breathing conditions. Of course,
if you have COPD, you have enough trouble breathing already.
Are My Allergies Serious?
Seasonal allergies are just a nuisance for most people. For COPD
patients, however, any extra condition that makes breathing difficult is
automatically more serious. According to one recent study at the Johns Hopkins Allergy
and Asthma Center, COPD patients with seasonal allergies suffered from worsened
respiratory symptoms like coughing and wheezing. They were also significantly
more likely to need medical treatment for their symptoms.
How Can I Avoid Serious Complications?
The best thing you can do is avoid potential allergens.
Unfortunately, allergens are all around. If you know your triggers, you already
have a head start. You can take steps now to reduce your contact with specific
allergens that worsen your symptoms. Read on for tips on avoiding common
allergens that could make your COPD symptoms worse.
Know Before You Go
Check out the National Allergy Bureau’s website before you
leave the house. They have a great interactive map you can use to find the
current pollen and mold counts for your area. You can dig even deeper and find
the levels for particular types of pollen, including trees, weeds, and grass.
You may wish to plan outings on days when pollen and mold levels are lower to
reduce your allergy symptoms.
It’s best to stay inside when the air quality in your area is
poor. For COPD patients, an Air Quality Index above 100 can wreak havoc on
respiratory symptoms. A good resource for checking air quality is AirNow. If you
have to go outside, try wearing a mask to filter allergens and irritants. When
you get home, change your clothes and maybe even jump in the shower to keep
from spreading pollen throughout your house.
Treat Your Symptoms
As soon as you notice itchy eyes or a runny nose, take an
over-the-counter antihistamine. Medications like Benadryl and Zyrtec can stop
your immune response to allergy triggers in its tracks, preventing serious
breathing difficulties. Nasal steroids, decongestants, and inhalers can help
open clogged airways.
Allergy-Proof Your Environment
Install a good filtration system in your air conditioner, and
keep windows closed when pollen counts are high. Buy a cabin air filter for
your car that is specifically designed to keep allergens out. Vacuum and dust
regularly to get rid of any pollen or mold spores that you may have tracked in
Talk to Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about your allergy symptoms, and how
seasonal allergies affect your COPD. He or she may want you to try a
prescription allergy medication. They may also advise you to use your inhaler
more often during peak allergy season. A skin test can help determine exactly
which allergens give you problems. Allergy shots may be recommended for
preventing further complications.