**FILE** Courtesy of amerihealthcaritasdc.com

Spring is here! If you have allergies or asthma, pollen and pollution can trigger your symptoms. Allergies can cause many symptoms, such as a runny nose; sneezing; itching; rashes; and swelling of your skin, sinuses, or digestive system. Allergies can also make asthma symptoms worse.

Asthma is common among children and teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 14,000 children in the District have asthma, and most are ages 5 to 9. If you or your child has asthma, you likely know that your airways are sensitive. They react to certain things called triggers, which can cause them to become inflamed. They narrow and swell. Common asthma triggers are:

• Mold
• Things in the air, such as dust and pollen
• Colds and flu
• Cold weather
• Pet hair and dander
• Secondhand smoke
• Cockroach droppings

You may react to just one of these triggers, or find you have many triggers. You can learn to avoid your triggers and gain control over asthma. Your primary care provider (PCP) can help you make a treatment plan so you can stay well, stay active and enjoy your life.

You can still get outside if you have allergies or asthma

Staying active is important for staying healthy. If you or your child has allergies or asthma but enjoys being active outdoors, you can still get outside with good medical care. Talk to your or your child’s PCP to learn the best way to do this. Here are some things to think about:

Work with your PCP to come up with a written asthma action plan. This plan can help you stay in control of your or your child’s asthma triggers. Your PCP might prescribe medicine to help. Children ages 10 and older can help make their asthma action plans. It’s important to share your child’s plan with your child’s school, teachers, caregivers, and family members. Most people can manage their symptoms by using their action plans and having routine PCP visits.

Take your asthma or allergy medicines on time and the right way. If you have asthma, talk to your PCP about what you should do if your symptoms get severe or you feel like you are having an asthma attack. If you have an inhaler, try it out a few times in front of your PCP. If you take long-term control medicines, take them as your PCP tells you.

Check the air quality. Air pollution can make you more sensitive to other triggers. If the air is polluted, you may find it hard to breathe outside. You can check the air quality at www.doee.dc.gov/air. This will help you know when to take it easy outside. In the spring and summer, mornings are often the best time to be outdoors.

Protect against pollen. Pollen and mold are the main problem for many with asthma and allergies:

• Close your windows at night to keep pollen and mold from coming in. On days with a lot of pollen and pollution, stay inside with windows closed.
• Don’t dry clothes or sheets outside.
• After you spend time outdoors, shower and change clothes. This helps get rid of pollen or mold on your clothing, hair, and skin.

If you start to see signs of asthma or allergies, limit outdoor time. Go to the gym, walk at the mall, swim in an indoor pool, join a dance class, or move along to a fitness video. AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC) members can join a no-cost fitness program and go to a fitness center of their choice. Check out www.fitnesscoach.com to learn more.

Get help if you need it

Spring and summer can be hard if you have allergies and asthma, but you don’t have to suffer. Tell your PCP if your allergies or asthma are giving you trouble so you can still enjoy the season.

If you are an AmeriHealth Caritas DC member, we can pair you with a Care Coach. Your Care Coach can help you make PCP appointments, fill your medicines, and meet your health goals. If you would like to be paired with a Care Coach, call Member Services at 1-800-408-7511.

Asthma and allergies don’t have to hold you back. You can control them with the right medical care. When you learn to notice the warning signs, you can enjoy life on your terms and be the best you can be.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Asthma.” Accessed March 13, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm.
• National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Asthma.” Accessed March 13, 2018. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma.
• Medline Plus. “Allergies, Asthma and Pollen.” Accessed March 13, 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000489.htm.
• Environmental Protection Agency. “Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution.” Accessed March 13, 2018. https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/asthma-flyer.pdf.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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