It is uncertain what causes some people to have nasal allergies and asthma. We are still learning what is going on in the body when people have either of these conditions. But we do know that allergies and asthma have a lot in common.
Nasal allergies occur in the “upper airways” (the nose, sinus cavities, and throat), while asthma occurs in the “lower airways” (the lungs). Though the locations are different, allergies and asthma appear to cause the same sorts of reactions: swelling, inflammation, and difficulty breathing. Roughly 30% of people who have one of these disorders will have the other one as well. We also know that allergies in the upper airways can aggravate asthma in the lower airways, and vice versa.
If you have allergies or asthma, the most important thing to know is how to keep these disorders under control. This is particularly important in the case of asthma, since poorly-controlled asthma can result in permanent lung injury and even death.
Here are the absolute basics you should know to keep your allergies and asthma under control:
1. Know your triggers, and avoid them as much as you can. Get allergy testing if possible.
2. Use nasal saline irrigation (such as a neti pot or other nasal lavage technique) to help keep your allergies under control and keep sinuses clean. http://www.dynamicclinic.com/nasal_lavage.php
3. Use “controller medication” each day as directed by your doctor. Do not stop taking it just because you feel better! The controller prevents the allergic or asthmatic reaction from occurring. (Note: Controllers can take 2-4 weeks before they are fully effective.)
4. If you smoke, please consider quitting. (1-800-QUITNOW)
5. If you are congested more than usual, figure out if the cause is viral or bacterial, and with your doctor’s help, treat your symptoms accordingly.