May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. This month also marks peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, so there’s no better time for a campaign meant to educate the public on these two related conditions. And with more than 23 million Americans suffering from allergies and 22 million with asthma, most of us at least know someone who’s impacted.

Here’s what you should know about and asthma and allergies:


  • Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes the airways to become inflamed and narrowed, making breathing difficult to impossible.
  • In those with asthma, attacks, or periods of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, may be caused by a number of triggers, including allergens, airborne irritants, exposure to certain chemicals, exercise, sleeping in a prone position, and other irritants.
  • There’s no cure for asthma, but there are treatments for managing and controlling asthma symptoms.


  • Allergies are when a usually non-harmful substance (allergen) in your home or environment causes a response by your body’s immune system.
  • Common allergens include medications, dust, food, insect venom, mold, animal dander, and pollen.
  • Allergy symptoms depend on whether the allergen is inhaled or ingested, a drug, or something that touches the skin or the eyes.
  • Allergens you breathe in can cause a stuffy, itchy nose, itchy throat, or asthmatic symptoms, like mucus production, cough, or wheezing.
  • Food allergies can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or anaphylaxis – a life-threatening condition.
  • Allergic reactions to medications affect the whole body and can produce any of the symptoms that are caused by other allergens.
  • Those that affect your skin can cause various rashes and hives.
  • Allergens that touch your eyes can make them red, itchy, puffy, or watery.
  • Like asthma, there is no cure for allergies. But there are many available treatments for allergy symptoms.

Sources:,, and

By Brigid Mara-Sedlak
May 14, 2013