Common Seasonal Allergens May Trigger Asthma Symptoms

Wenzel Sally MD Pulmonary 01072010
Dr. Sally Wenzel

Whether running the Pittsburgh Marathon next week or simply spending more time outdoors, the warm weather has finally arrived in Western Pennsylvania. But what do these warmer temperatures mean for people who suffer from asthma or allergies? And do they know the proper ways to keep their symptoms under control?

“Many of the same substances that trigger allergies may also trigger asthma symptoms,” says Dr. Sally Wenzel, Director of the Asthma Institute at UPMC. “With high counts of allergens such as tree, grass and plant pollen this time of year, it’s crucial that people understand what triggers their symptoms and how they can keep them under control.”

May is asthma awareness month, and nearly 25 million Americans live with asthma – with approximately 70% of asthmatics also having allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Successful asthma management includes knowing the warning signs of an attack, avoiding things that trigger an attack and following the advice of a healthcare provider.

“Asthma affects each person differently, therefore individualized care is key,” adds Dr. Wenzel. “At the Asthma Institute, we work with patients to develop a comprehensive plan including: understanding the type of asthma that they have, utilizing appropriate  environmental control measures, individualizing medication, creating an asthma action plan, and fostering a partnership between the patient, their family, their healthcare provider and community resources.”

Based on data from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology:

  • 13 million school days are missed each year due to asthma.
  • Asthma accounts for about 10.1 million missed work days for adults annually.
  • More than 12 million people in the United States report having an asthma attack in the past year.
  • Asthma accounts for approximately 500,000 hospitalizations annually.
  • In 2008 less than half of people with asthma reported being taught how to avoid triggers.

With asthma costing an estimated $14 billion annually in health care costs, community-based organizations like Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania seek to provide information, programs and resources in addition to the medical attention a patient receives from their doctor.

“We offer a number of resources for both adults and children who suffer from asthma, as well as provide support to parents of a child with asthma,” says Carol Ann Kuczma, Director of Programs & Services at Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania. “We know that a patient is getting the critical medical treatment from their doctor, but  as a community resource, we help connect parents, the school, and other childcare providers so that everyone involved knows how to help avoid  an asthma attack and can encourage proper self-management of symptoms,” adds Ms. Kuczma.

“It really comes down to the complete continuum of care,” adds Dr. Wenzel. “Through proper medical treatment, an understanding of the disease, recognizing patient specific triggers, and partnering with family, school, and community organizations, asthma is very much a disease that can be managed.”

To learn more about the work of the Asthma Institute at UPMC, visit their website at for information about their services, events and studies. To learn more about the various asthma programs and educational resources offered by Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania, or to register for Camp Huff-n-Puff, an annual summer camp for children with asthma, visit

About Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania

Since its inception over 100 years ago, Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania has established a rich history of promoting lung health in the community. From its early days as an organization that fought tuberculosis, to its evolution to an organization that offers programs to people with asthma, chronic lung disease, or who may be looking to quit smoking, Healthy Lungs Pennsylvania has the ability to assist anyone wishing to learn more about their lungs and how to keep them healthy. To learn more, visit


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