I've Got Allergic Asthma - Now What?!?!
Maybe the itches and wheezes are new or maybe you join me in getting a new label for old symptoms. Hopefully your diagnosis comes from a wonderful allergist who will help you find the best trigger management and avoidance strategies for your allergens.
For me I found out I'm allergic to mold and dust mites, two common indoor allergens that are perennial. I've only had fish as pets so I didn't have to say goodbye to beloved Fluffy or Fido.
Allergic asthma proof your home
I made some of the household changes recommended by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology:1
Hot water wash and dryer dry my sheets every week
I have several sheet sets so I can do this even if I don't have time to finish a load of laundry before bed. Be cautious of the hot water taps if you turn up the water heater for this. Kerri gave me a great excuse not to make the bed more often!4
Asthma proof your bed
Sleep with dust mite encasements on the bed and pillows. They really do make some quiet options these days. You don't have to choose between sleeping on a crinkling bed and breathing!
So this isn't a quick or easy job, but I ripped out my bedroom carpet and replaced it with cork tiles. It is warm like carpet, but easy to sweep/vacuum up just like other hard surface floors. I probably should've outsourced this task to someone without allergic asthma.
Wear a mask
I wear a mask when I do things that raise dust. The carpet removal project prompted me to get a half face respirator with removable filters. I also shower and put on clean clothes after home maintenance.
Watch the heat
I keep an eye on the thermostat since, "Dust mites thrive in 70*F or above temperatures and humidity levels above 75 percent."1 I try to keep the house low humidity and air-conditioned to avoid dust mites and moisture for mold.
Keep the air clean
I have a HEPA filter vacuum and use HEPA filters on my central heating/air conditioning unit. I haven't gone as far as getting a separate air cleaner for my bedroom but there is evidence to support improved asthma with HEPA filtration.2
Talk to your doctor about allergy shots
Completing a full round of immunotherapy (allergy shots). This was a 5-year commitment on my part and came with the risk of anaphylaxis. It was certainly not a decision we came to lightly but ultimately proved to be a good choice. Allergic asthma is one indication for allergy shots according to the World Health Organization.3
Take it one step at a time
Start with the list of changes you've been asked to make by your allergist and take it one step at a time. Yes, I've made many changes over the years but it started with just one change.
Break down how you can improve your allergies into small steps and start working on it. If the list of changes to medications and ideas to asthma proof your home is overwhelming to you be sure to take notes or ask for a written plan/list.
Speak up and let your care team know if the list seems like too much for you. They will hopefully be able to prioritize some most important first steps and others that can be good second steps in a few months. In my years of finding the right balance of allergy treatments, clear communication with my allergist was key. What is most important for you in managing your allergic asthma?
Have you developed a new food allergy in the last 5 years?