The shift from crisp spring mornings to the lazy days of summer signals good times for many—the start of holiday breaks, vacations with family and friends, longer days, and warmer weather. For people living with allergic asthma, though, this time of year is often the height of endless sneezing, labored wheezing, and generally feeling downright miserable.
Allergic asthma happens when allergies and asthma combine. Practically, that means when you breathe in an allergen, it triggers inflammation in your airways that leads to asthma symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You may also experience more classic symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as sneezing and itchy eyes. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone: More than 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma, and 60% of them have allergic asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
So when many people are spending time outside, those with allergic asthma often find themselves stuck inside (thanks to pollen and other allergens in the air). That said, if you’ve lived with this condition for any period of time, you start to develop some tips and tricks for minimizing your exposure to allergens and managing any of the not-so-enjoyable symptoms they cause.
SELF spoke to four people living with allergic asthma about what it’s like navigating the condition, what they’ve learned along the way, and, ultimately, what helps them breathe a bit easier.
1. “The diagnosis helped me understand a lot of issues I have had most of my life.”
“I was diagnosed with asthma by my general practitioner when I was 30 and received the official diagnosis from my lung doctor when I was 31. Although I’ve only known about it for just over two years, the diagnosis helped me understand a lot of issues I have had most of my life. I’m an opera singer, which makes breathing a pretty crucial aspect of my job. For years, I always struggled to make it through phrases that should not have been an issue. After receiving the diagnosis and beginning to take a maintenance inhaler, it has made a huge difference.
However, I do have to take care to wear a mask if I’m vacuuming or dusting and take antihistamines during high pollen season (and if I’m traveling for an audition or a gig). I also plan my allergy shots around my singing schedule since I usually cannot sing the day after.
I am beginning to trust the inhaler, but I do try to avoid going on hikes in wheat fields—I learned that one the hard way! HEPA air filters are a massive help, and so is having a robot vacuum (although my puppy might disagree with that hack). I also got dust covers for my duvets, mattress, and pillows, and stopped having flowers in the apartment. Additionally, the allergy shots seem to be helping with dust, and FFP2 masks are great when cleaning to prevent allergy attacks.