Asthma, Allergies, Eczema

Although these three conditions may seem unrelated at first, they actually have quite a great deal in common. These are conditions that all reflect an increased sensitivity to one’s environment. Additionally, all three conditions have similarities in treatment:

  1. avoid those things known to trigger the condition;
  2. use daily maintenance treatments to decrease sensitivity and prevent flare-ups;
  3. use rescue medications as needed when flare-ups occur

Asthma


Asthma is a lung disorder that happens when the lungs have increased sensitivity to the environment. It consists of inflammation of the airway and spasm of the airway muscles.

  1. Common triggers include: cold air, exercise, smoke, allergens, and viral infections.
  2. Daily maintenance medications can include inhaled steroids which can decrease inflammation and sensitivity to prevent flare-ups (not appropriate for all asthma patients).
  3. Rescue medications such as albuterol or levalbuterol are used only as needed to treat an asthma exacerbation (increased wheezing, cough, difficulty breathing).

Allergies

Nasal allergy symptoms (aka Hay Fever) can happen when the nose or even the eyes have increased sensitivity to the environment. Symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

  1. Common triggers include pollen, dust, pet dander, smoke, and pollution.
  2. Daily maintenance medications can include nasal steroids. These medications are used every day in order to prevent a flare-up.
  3. Rescue medications typically include antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra are just a few). These medicines can be taken either daily or as needed to treat worsening allergy symptoms.

Eczema

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is condition that occurs when the skin has increased sensitivity to the environment. Symptoms can include severe itching, dryness, and rashes on the skin.

  1. Common triggers of eczema can include dryness, cold, food allergies, or various chemicals like soaps, lotions, or detergents.
  2. Daily maintenance for eczema almost always involves moisturizing creams, lotions, or ointments. Creams and ointments are preferred and should be applied immediately after drying off after a bath or shower to seal the moisture in the skin if possible.
  3. Rescue medications for eczema can include topical steroids or steroid alternatives (such as hydrocortisone). These medications are intended to be used as little as possible and only as needed to treat worsening symptoms or rashes.

Bottom Line: This is a general overview of very complicated conditions. Not all of these principles apply to each patient. Many other medications and treatments are available and can be very helpful. Contact your doctor to discuss this in further detail.