Take My Breath Away

By Copper Williams

It’s hard to imagine our vibrant agricultural hub as the leading contender in air pollution in the United States. And yet, every day we leave for work, go to school, or take a joy ride, we are breathing in tiny particles that have amassed in the bowl we call San Joaquin. As of 2016, over 550,000 residents are afflicted with asthma, and with the number continuing to grow, we took the time to speak with Stockton’s Allergy Immunology & Asthma Medical Group to learn about common triggers, symptoms, and ways to manage asthma.

An asthma attack can sometimes begin with only a tickle in the throat, or chest tightness. But, as Dr. Michael Balduzzi, MD, explains, “The classic asthma symptoms, such as coughing or wheezing, may at first only occur during periods of increased activity, or extended talking and laughing. However, as an asthma attack progresses, it is common to experience coughing, wheezing, tightness of the chest, or chest pressure even at random.”

Dust mites, tobacco smoke, pet dander, and mold are large culprits called aeroallergens that can provoke an attack. These triggers can fly free through air ducts, settle onto couches and dinner tables, and even snuggle up and into our bed sheets—triggering watery eyes, a scratchy throat, the sniffles, and even full-blown attacks.

As we head out of our home, we are also bombarded with other air pollutants the valley is known for. Spring is an especially bad time for those who suffer from tree and grass pollens. And throughout the day, we are exposing ourselves to the common cold virus, another cause for significant asthma flare-ups.

So, what can you do when you feel an attack coming on? Dr. Balduzzi advises those with pre-existing asthma to use their rescue albuterol inhaler, or their nebulizer. “In general, albuterol is dosed every four to six hours, as needed. If someone requires using their medication more frequently than that, it is a sign it’s not working, and they should seek emergency medical attention.”

Allergy Immunology & Asthma Medical Group advises skin testing for those sensitive to allergens, to confirm how the skin reacts. “Identifying allergens that a person is sensitive to helps them know what allergens to avoid, or remove from their environment,” Dr. Balduzzi explains. “Also, it allows the opportunity for treatment of asthma by desensitizing the patient to those allergens, which is a long-term treatment for asthma that can minimize the use of medications over time.”

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