DPH Helps Georgians with Allergies and Asthma Breathe Easier

April 6, 2015

Most of us don’t really think about breathing, but it’s always on the minds of about 50 million people with allergies and 23 million people with asthma when spring arrives in Georgia. With trees in full bloom and high pollen counts, itchy eyes and throats, sneezing, wheezing and coughing are daily experiences for allergy sufferers.

Rather than staying inside and missing the beautiful sights of spring, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is advising Georgians that you can still enjoy the season by proactively managing your allergy and asthma symptoms.

Georgia is no stranger to high pollen counts so it’s important to routinely monitor pollen levels before planning your outdoor activities. Get ahead of your allergies by taking over-the-counter or prescription medications early to effectively manage or prevent severe symptoms.  If needed, stay inside during the mid-day and afternoon hours when pollen counts are highest.

When the pollen is visible on surfaces, it’s probably also on your outer clothing. Take a shower, wash your hair and change your outer clothing after being outdoors for work, school or fitness activities.

Also, pay attention to how you ventilate your homes or cars during spring weather. It’s tempting to open the windows for fresh air or let your convertible top down in the car, but you want to avoid this if you suffer from asthma or allergies. Keep the doors and windows of your cars and home closed and opt for air conditioning which will help control air quality around you during allergy season.

DPH is also educating parents and children with asthma to play it safe during allergy season. Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs and is characterized by symptoms including wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.

In 2013, nearly 2 in every 16 children in Georgia have asthma which equates to roughly 260,000 school-aged children according to the Georgia Asthma Prevalence Report.  Additionally, this report indicates that 14 percent of middle school and 13 percent of high school students in Georgia have asthma.

Furthermore, 60 percent of children with current asthma missed at least one day of school for asthma in the past year. They missed on average a total of five days from school.

For those persons with asthma, it’s vital to have asthma control medications on hand, such as your inhaler, and stay away from asthma triggers such as dust, outdoor air pollution, mold and tobacco smoke. As with all medications, read the label or consult with your doctor for certain medications that can trigger an episode.

Through an initiative spearheaded by DPH, CDC and the National Center for Environmental Health’s Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch, DPH is helping Georgians with asthma breathe a little easier with the Georgia Asthma Control Plan (GACP).

“Allergies are one of the main triggers for asthma; thus, controlling your allergy symptoms can effectively help you mitigate the triggers of asthma,” said Jean O’Connor, JD, MPH, DrPH, DPH Chronic Disease Prevention Section director. “Through the Georgia Asthma Control Program, we’re able to provide asthma suffers relief, especially during springtime, by increasing access to important resources that enable adults and children to manage this condition and enjoy a better quality of life.” 

DPH also encourages people to be aware of additional asthma triggers including health conditions such as the flu, cold respiratory virus, sinus infections and acid reflux. Even exercising can trigger asthma symptoms, making it important for asthma suffers to carefully monitor their breathing to avoid having an asthma attack and consult with their doctor before embarking on any exercise regime.

If you suffer from allergies and asthma, before you step outside, visit the Weather Underground to get information on pollen levels and pollen types in your specific area of Georgia. For additional information on asthma awareness and how to manage this disease, visit DPH’s Georgia Asthma Control Program website for free resources for parents and school nurses.

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