Michigan ranks in the top 10 states for lifetime prevalence of asthma. Many people with asthma have allergies, which can trigger attacks as well. The warmer temperatures encourage people to spend more time outside engaging in physical activity and this can also contribute to asthmatic reactions. Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, recognized each May, makes this a good time to increase understanding of both conditions and ways to control troublesome symptoms.
Allergies occur when the immune system responds abnormally to an allergen, which could include plants and pollens, molds, certain foods like peanuts, pets, insects or things like medication or latex. Reactions to allergens could include sneezing or coughing, itchy eyes, runny nose or scratchy throat. Severe reactions could result in hives or rashes, trouble breathing, asthma attacks or even death. According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, one in five Americans has a diagnosed allergy, with more than 50% saying the condition affects their daily quality of life. People with a family history of allergies are more susceptible and having asthma can also make it more likely that someone would develop an allergy.
Asthma is a lung disease that’s often controlled with medication. It can cause airways to narrow and lead to wheezing, loss of breath and tightness in the chest. According to the American Lung Association, there are four factors that contribute to developing asthma:
- Allergies: Some allergic conditions have been linked to asthma.
- Environment: Elements at home, school and work can play a role in developing asthma as a child and as an adult.
- Genetics: People with a parent who has asthma are more likely to develop the condition themselves as asthma can run in families.
- Respiratory infections: Damage to lung tissue as a child that results from respiratory infections has been found to affect long-term lung function, exacerbating asthma.
Michigan Cities Rank Highly for Asthma and Seasonal Allergies
Asthma has been on the rise nationally for decades. Locally, about one in 10 Michigan residents have asthma. Rates of asthma are disproportionately high in Detroit where asthma hospitalizations are three times higher than in Michigan as a whole. Rates of death due to asthma are more than two times higher than the state’s average. Experts believe contributing factors include air and environmental pollution as well as systemic factors related to socioeconomic status and higher rates of asthma for people of color. Recently, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area ranked 24th nationwide on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s list of 2021 allergy capitals, while Detroit came in 40th. The list focuses on seasonal allergies caused by pollen, which can flare up in the spring and fall.
Seeking Help for Asthma and Allergies
For people concerned they might have asthma or allergies, talking to a primary care provider is a good first step. A doctor can evaluate symptoms, determine if further testing is needed and help patients identify an action plan to manage their condition. About the author: Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker is an associate medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Related:
- Do You Need to See an Allergist?
- Is It a Cold or Seasonal Allergies?
- How Do I Know if I'm Allergic to Certain Medications?
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