Living with asthma and skin allergies

April 28, 2015

They may seem like entirely different issues, but asthma and allergies, including skin reactions, can actually be closely linked. In fact it’s thought that more than three quarters of people with asthma will also have eczema and/or hayfever. With one in ten people in Australia living with asthma that’s a whole lot of allergies!

There is a genetic or inherited tendency to have allergic disease, and so you are more likely to develop allergies if other family members have allergies or asthma. In some people, skin or food allergies can even cause asthma symptoms.

An allergy is your body abnormally responding to a substance that it decides is harmful. This can cause inflammation in a specific area of the body such as the nose and eyes (in hayfever), the skin (in eczema) or the lungs (in asthma). Allergies can be set off or ‘triggered’ by many different things, and each person will find their triggers are different. In asthma the airways are especially sensitive and they react to certain triggers and so it becomes harder to breathe. Common and more obvious asthma triggers include smoke and pollen, and many people find that perfumed products and strong smells can also set off their asthma symptoms.

If you know what things trigger your asthma, then taking simple steps to avoid these can help. If smells tend to set off your asthma, then it’s worth thinking about, and perhaps keeping a diary of what sort of smells cause you problems, as you might be more able to avoid them. Chemicals are a common culprit, as are strong perfumes or scents in body products. The most constant source of scent is your own body, so you should consider going through your own bathroom cabinet and checking that you’re not wearing anything that might irritate you.

Dealing with other people who seem to travel in a cloud of overpowering fragrance can be a little trickier, but if it’s someone close to you then you might find letting them know how it affects you leads to some change. If it’s happening in your workplace and it’s causing you to have trouble with your health, then you have every right to have a word with the boss about how to approach the issue with co-workers. It’s important to be sensitive and remember that you often don’t know how strong your own perfume and body product scents can be, and it might be embarrassing to have it pointed out!

If you have asthma, the best thing you can do is to be informed. Go to www.asthmaaustralia.org.au for lots of information and support, and you can sign up to Asthma Assist – a free asthma information and support service that offers regular updates on the management of asthma, latest research, new treatments and medications, and much more.

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