Free Allergy and Asthma Screenings Offered Nationwide

Adults and children with symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath can find out if they are at risk for asthma through the 16th annual Nationwide Asthma Screening Program. And, new this year, participants can see if a runny nose or itchy eyes might be allergies.

Allergists will offer more than 200 free allergy and asthma screenings through the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (ACAAI) public service campaign that helps those with breathing difficulties that might be asthma. The 2012 program also will offer testing for allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever, and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), breathing problems that occur during or after exercise.

“Asthma and allergies are often connected, and we offer the tools and resources, both available at the screenings and online, to give people a chance to see if they are at risk and get them on the path to find relief,” said allergist John Winder, MD, chair of the ACAAI Nationwide Asthma Screening Program. “The screening is quick, painless and free and now checks for three conditions that could affect your quality of life.”

Online tools are available at AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org, including a list of screening locations and the interactive MyEIBJournal.org which allows those with EIB to track their symptoms and exercise activities and share them with their allergist.

More than 24 million Americans, including 7.1 million children, have asthma. The disease is responsible for almost 4,000 deaths a year. An asthma attack is often triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander, certain drugs and food additives or respiratory infections. Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, many treatments are available to control this chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs.

Allergic rhinitis affects 10 percent to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children. One-third will develop asthma. Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal, with symptoms brought on by sensitivity to pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, or to airborne mold spores.

Sometimes, sensitivity to house dust mites, animal dander or cockroaches can trigger a reaction, called perennial allergic rhinitis.

Between 80 percent to 90 percent of people with asthma also have EIB and the condition affects 10 percent of Americans who do not have asthma. When people exercise, they often breathe rapidly through their mouth instead of allowing their nose to warm and humidify the air. The cold, dry air that reaches the bronchial tubes can trigger breathing difficulties within five to 15 minutes after starting exercise and may occur for several minutes after stopping.

“Allergies and asthma are serious diseases and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can have serious health consequences,” said Dr. Winder. “Board-certified allergists are the best-trained health professionals to perform allergy testing and treat allergic diseases effectively so that people with asthma, allergies or EIB should be able to work, exercise and sleep well at night without symptoms.”

Allergists work with other healthcare professionals to conduct free screenings at shopping malls, civic centers, health fairs and other locations throughout the country. The screenings also offer people already diagnosed the chance to see if their condition is under control.

During a screening, adults complete a Life Quality (LQ) Test developed by the ACAAI. Children under age 15 take the Kids’ Asthma Check that allows them to answer questions themselves about breathing problems and another version is available for parents of children up to 8 years of age to complete on their child’s behalf. Questions on allergies also are included.

To screen for asthma and EIB, participants take a lung function test that involves blowing into a tube. All participants meet with an allergist to determine if they should seek a thorough examination and diagnosis for any of the conditions.

Teva Respiratory, LLC supports the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)

About The Author