Sparks Shares Asthma, Allergy Awareness

FORT SMITH, AR (May 16, 2013) – In recognition of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, Sparks Health System wants everyone to breathe easier.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 60 million adults and children in the United States are living with asthma and allergies, making these chronic diseases among the most common and costly.

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances, or allergens, that don’t normally cause a reaction in most individuals. Symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itching and tearing eyes can indicate an allergy. Asthma is a chronic lung disorder that causes airways to become inflamed. Certain triggers, including the same allergens that cause allergies, stimulate the muscles around the airways to tighten, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness or pain – also known as an asthma attack.

“Both allergies and asthma can be managed well with the right treatment plan,” said Gary Highfill, M.D., board-certified otolaryngologist practicing at the Sparks Ear, Nose & Throat Center – West.  “If you have symptoms, your doctor can help determine what the triggers are and develop a management plan.”

Pollen is a primary outdoor allergen. Trees, grasses and weeds create the types of pollen that most commonly cause allergies. In the spring and summer, pollen levels are highest in the evening, so plan outdoor activities earlier in the day.

Allergens can also be found indoors. The most common indoor allergens include droppings from dust mites and cockroaches, pet dander and mold – all of which can trigger symptoms in both allergy and asthma sufferers. To reduce allergens in your home, dust surfaces, vacuum floors and wash bedding often to reduce dust and dander. Be sure to fix any indoor leaks to prevent mold, particularly in damp locations such as bathrooms, kitchens and along windows.

“Limiting exposure to outdoor triggers and reducing indoor allergens can help you manage allergies and asthma more effectively,” Dr. Highfill said.

Dr. Highfill is available by appointment at the Sparks Ear, Nose & Throat Center - West, located in the Sparks Medical Plaza at 1500 Dodson Ave. in Fort Smith. Call (479) 573-7985 for more information or to make an appointment. Dr. Highfill currently treats allergy patients, if you are experiencing asthma symptoms, please call (479) 709-DOCS to be referred to a Sparks pulmonologist.