Where there’s Smoke, There’s Asthma

I wanted to make some observations and suggestions about the smoke that has been such a big problem this summer.

We always expect to see quite a few patients with asthma or bronchitis worsened by the winter inversions that we get each year – but we don’t typically see many people with smoke-related worsening.  This year has definitely been different!  We have been treating patients who are short-of breath, coughing, and wheezing this summer (many more than normal) – almost certainly due to the smoke.

Smoke acts primarily as an irritant in worsening breathing and can also bother the throat, the nose, and the eyes.  In general, asthma that is worse because of an irritant can be harder to treat, and may respond less well to medications, than asthma that is worse because of an allergy — i.e. being around a cat you’re allergic to.  That is what we have seen this summer – people getting less than expected results from their medications.  Several patients who were taking their medications faithfully noticed increased symptoms and have needed to increase the dose of their daily inhalers, while others have needed a few days of oral steroids to get things under control.  It feels like we have had the awful winter inversions with us all summer.

Hopefully, the smoke from local fires will be gone soon.  If not, what to do?

Smoke Avoidance Tip 1: Avoid the smoke as much as possible.  Keep doors and windows closed 24/7.  Exercise inside, not outdoors if you can, or wait for relatively ‘clean’ air days to work-out outside.  Postpone yard work until the air is a bit better if you can.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 2: If you are taking asthma meds, make sure you are taking them regularly as directed.  Many adults can stop their asthma inhalers during the summer months – maybe not this year?  If you are taking your meds appropriately, but still having problems, you may need to increase the dose, or change medications entirely.  Some may need oral steroids to get things under control initially.  If you are struggling, but don’t use any asthma meds, it is time to see your doctor.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 3:  Remember that coughing may be due to chest irritation, or due to post-nasal drainage from an irritated nose or throat (or both).  In addition to asthma meds, you may benefit from regular nasal sprays, throat lozenges, and even gargling with saline.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 4: You may do better if you wear a face mask while outside.  I say ‘may do better’ because it makes a big difference what type of mask you use.  A cheap, poorly fitting mask may do little, while a more expensive, correctly fitted mask could help a lot.  See this recent (brief) report on face masks and air pollution.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 5: This may the right time to talk to the financial advisor and see if there is money for a small cottage in the Alps?  Or Hawaii?  Anywhere that the air quality is better!

Smoke Avoidance Tip 6: Pray for rain! 

Good luck dealing with our air quality.  Keep in mind that although smoke from local fires has diminished, it still may occur this fall and will most certainly be present next year. Please let us know if we can help.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please bookmark our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or follow our Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT” to keep up on the tips about allergies and asthma.

 

Allergy Myths 101: Unfiltered Local Honey

There are many old wives tales or popular myths about how a person can treat their allergies. Here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we have heard them all! As a way to help dispel allergy myths, we’ve invited Dr. Harris to share a few of his thoughts in our “Allergy Myths 101” blog posts. We hope you’ll read this and read future 101 posts. Dr. Harris, take it away!

Here is a popular allergy myth: Eating unfiltered local honey will help control allergies.

I want to start this by saying that I love unfiltered “raw” honey.  I personally eat a lot of honey (sometimes by the spoonful), but I don’t recommend it for allergies.

There are two reasons that local honey is unlikely to be helpful with seasonal allergies:

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 1: The pollen that is found in honey is generally not the pollen that is causing your allergies.  Bees are attracted to bright, colorful, and fragrant plants (such as roses or lilacs), but pollen from those plants usually doesn’t cause nose and eye symptoms.  Most of the time, the pollen types that make us miserable in the spring and fall comes from drab, un-colored plants, with no noticeable fragrance (such as the grass in your front lawn, or ragweed).  These are the plants that bees usually ignore.  Ingesting the wrong pollen simply isn’t going to make a difference.

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 2: When we eat pollen-containing honey, the pollen proteins are very likely destroyed, or at least significantly altered by stomach acid and other digestive enzymes so that any allergy potential they may have had is eliminated.

If you could somehow put honey with the ‘correct’ pollen in it under the tongue (where a portion is absorbed directly into the blood stream) it might be effective.  Believe me though, it would take a lot of honey to do any good.

So – by all means enjoy the flavor of raw, local honey, but use tested and proven medicines and treatments to take care of allergies.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma
Draper, Utah

A Local Raw Honey Tip from Dr. Harris

An interesting taste test is to compare ‘raw’, unfiltered honey and commercial honey from your local store (it’s important that the raw honey hasn’t been heated at all or this may not work).  A friend who produces honey told me about this and I could definitely taste a difference (I loved the ‘raw’ honey).  Apparently, any significant heating can change the flavor – so you get the best, most ‘natural’ flavor by consuming the honey before it crystallizes and needs to be heated or ‘melted’.

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

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