a bucket full of pet dander, pollen, mold and dust about to fall and pour out onto a woman

What Is an Allergy Load?

I was listening to a webinar, and I heard the doctor say something about an “allergy load.” What is he talking about?

Most of us with asthma also have allergies, and the allergies can easily trigger an asthma attack.

How does the allergy load work?

Well, it's like having an empty bucket, and every time you are exposed to an allergen, it goes in your bucket. You keep filling your bucket up with allergens until it overflows.

Here's an easy example of how it works:

  1. You go outside to get the morning paper and the neighbor is walking by with their cute puppy. Well, you just can’t help yourself, so you reach down to pet the puppy. *Add dog dander to bucket*
  2. You finally finish the big report, and it’s time to take a break from the computer and stretch your legs. You look outside and it’s a gorgeous spring day, so you take a walk around the block. *Add tree pollen to bucket*
  3. You stop by to help Elderly Neighbor, who is cleaning out her dusty basement. *Add dust to bucket*
  4. You notice water damage in Elderly Neighbor’s basement. *Adds mold to bucket*

Well, now you have done it! You have acted like a normal person (someone without allergies and asthma), and you are now sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.

Now what?

Everyone with allergies and asthma is different, but here are a few ideas:

  • Let’s check on those cranky lungs – do you need to use your albuterol inhaler or have a breathing treatment with the nebulizer?
  • Blow your nose to get the dander, pollen, dust and mold out
  • Try a neti pot to rinse out your sinuses (fair warning – it’s like jumping into a swimming pool without plugging your nose!)
  • Throw those dirty clothes into the hamper
  • Jump into the shower and suds up and get the allergens off your hair and skin

How do I prevent the allergy load?

Wouldn’t it be easier to just prevent being around your allergens? Could it help prevent an asthma attack? Let’s rewind and try the day over.

  1. Go ahead - pet that adorable puppy! Make sure it doesn’t jump on your clothing and don't touch your eyes or nose. Then go straight into the house and wash your hands and arms.
  2. Check the pollen count. Trees are high? Still? Ugh! Well then, I’m going to do laps in the hall inside my building. You could also walk the stairs. As long as you stay inside with fresh, filtered air.
  3. Stop by to help Elderly Neighbor. But, since you know it’s dusty, put on a face mask. Most of us have a whole pile of face masks from COVID-19. Use them to protect your lungs from dust.
  4. Make sure you avoid the area of the basement with mold. Find the right way to remove mold (taking all of the precautions and wearing the right protective clothing and mask), or call in a professional.

Most people have a good idea of what allergens can trigger an asthma attack for them, but sometimes it's hard to know what caused an asthma attack. How do you know what your lungs can handle? Maybe learning about the allergy load will help.

How do you know what your lungs can handle? Did you ever have one of those days when your allergy load was too much and your lungs paid the price?

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