On a more recent run, it occurred to me that there must be runners with asthma. But how do they manage it? What happens if they have an asthma attack? Could they run marathons and races or hit the trail for long distance runs?
Most of us are familiar with the common causes of asthma attacks, tobacco smoke, air pollution, dust mites, mold, cockroach allergens, or pets. However, exercise-induced asthma is triggered by physical exertion and is a common cause that might seem counterintuitive to some, particularly since severe asthma can often limit physical activity. The severity of exercise-induced asthma attacks can be affected by many factors including overall health, medication taken (or not taken), how long you are exercising, and the environment (temperature, pollution, etc.).
To better understand how asthma affects an active person’s lifestyle, I spoke to Ali McDonald, co-owner of AchooAllergy.com, and Christina Kenney a current student at Kent State University and past cross country and track runner. Both are currently active runners with asthma.
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running since I was five. I’ve always loved running!
Do you run 5Ks, marathons, races?
No, I run for exercise- 3-5 miles, a few days a week.
What triggers your asthma attacks?
My asthma attacks are triggered by pollen, but mostly cold weather induced.
What happens when you start to have an asthma attack?
I can’t get a breath when it does happen. You can’t get a full breath in, it’s shortened… like when you exercise really hard, and you try to slow your heart beat down to catch your breath, but you can’t. That’s how I would explain it to people who don’t have asthma.
So do you just slow down, or try to relax yourself? How do you take care of it?
I use my inhaler. It’s the only way, basically.
What about when you’re not running? What do you do if, let’s say, you have an attack while walking around in the park?
Since I have exercise-induced asthma, I don’t generally have asthma attacks when I’m not running. But if I do feel a shortness of breath, or anything like that, I take my time, slow down and focus on slowing down my heart rate.
What’s the perfect run for you?-Perfect weather, inclines?
When the temperature gets below 32° C it becomes difficult to run, so between 50° and 60° is great, and without seasonal allergens. Inclines don’t affect me so much as temperature.
What sports did you do when you were younger?
I was a gymnast and I did cheerleading. I never had asthma attacks in gymnastics, and in cheerleading there were enough breaks in between that it really didn’t affect my asthma.
Do you have any advice for those with asthma who may want to start running?
Carry your inhaler. It can be scary to have it in your car a few miles away, while you’re having an attack. And avoid exercising in situations where you’ll be affected by triggers like ragweed and pollen.
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running since freshman year of high school, so about 6 years ago.
Did you start running for sports?
I started with track then cross country.
Have you always had asthma?
Yeah, it was much more severe when I was little. I had to take treatments three times a day, breathing treatments with a nebulizer from the time I was a baby until I was old enough and switched over to a once-a-day preventative pill.
When did you decide to start running?
As I got older it wasn’t as severe, then one day in gym we had to run a mile. Everyone hated it, but I wanted to push myself so I ran as hard as I could and beat everyone. The gym coach said I should try out for track after that. She said that there were plenty of runners with asthma that could run.
What happens when you start to an asthma attack while running? How do you feel, what are the symptoms and how do you take care of it?
I slow down a lot, sometimes walk, with my hands on my head. It was really hard at first when I started running- I started as the slowest one. When the weather is cold, it stings a lot and burns. It’s a harsh feeling. In warmer weather, I can’t breathe and I have a heavy weight on my chest. When it is cold out, I take my inhaler before my run to try to prevent it, but if I don’t take it before I have to use it during and after my run.
Describe the perfect run for you- the weather, incline, no incline, etc.
I’d say like… 60°, 70° degree weather.
What advice do you have for running with asthma?
Definitely don’t get discouraged just because of asthma. I went from the slowest distance runner in freshman year to one of the fastest on varsity. Get used to it, and carry an inhaler. It’ll be hard at first, but as you go running gets easier. It’ll even improve your asthma.
Why do you think that?
Because it helps you out, makes your lungs get stronger. Running gets easier, you just have to get used to it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d also tell people wanting to distance run, with asthma, to be diligent. Try not to take a really long hiatus from running if they enjoy what they get out of it. It takes a good amount of time and perseverance to get back in shape as an asthmatic. Not only are you getting your muscles back in shape but you're also building your lung capacity.
Before interviewing Ali and Christina, I thought asthma was just a general respiratory ailment. But it was a nice surprise to see a contrast in exercise induced asthma and regular asthma. I learned that cold weather is not a good running partner while inhalers are, and as Theodore Roosevelt promoted, running could actually be beneficial for asthma. Thank you ladies!
Author: R. Power
Many of you may recall seeing Primatene Mist on drugstore and market shelves when you were younger. For me, it was a common occurrence as my cousin, who suffers from severe asthma, would often have this inhaler with him. After spending time in the backyard with my cousins and brothers playing football, he would pull out his inhaler, flip the top and use it if his asthma flared up.
In 2011 Primatene Mist was phased out and removed from store shelves. These pocket-sized inhalers used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to propel the epinephrine out and into the lungs of the asthma sufferer. As part of an overall move away from CFC-based propellants, the axe finally fell on Primatene Mist in December of that year. Since then, the manufacturer, Armstrong Pharmaceuticals, has been attempting to gain OTC status for a replacement inhaler, the short-acting beta2-agonist (SABA) bronchodilator, Primatene HFA. Currently, the only forms of this type of drug available are prescribed. If you have asthma, you might be familiar with their names, albuterol and levalbuterol. However, there is some need for an OTC alternative, particularly in case of emergencies or when people run out of their prescription at inopportune times.
In addition to ultimately voting no to OTC use, the 25 member advisory panel also voted on the efficacy and safety of the new inhaler. While there is still another ongoing clinical trial, the panel discussed the results of two other clinical trials that showed significant results. On a vote over the efficacy, 14 yes votes won out.
Lastly, the panel discussed and voted on the safety of the proposed drug. Like most drugs, Primatene HFA did show some side effects, though even with the most severe side effect being tremors, all cases were mild. Other side effects were infrequent. A larger safety issue was likely found in the correct use of the inhaler. While the new inhaler uses an ozone-friendly propellant, the new formula is a suspension that can settle. Consequently, the inhaler must be primed four times before the first use and twice after two weeks of nonuse. It must also be washed and dried each day, and both of these present significant hurdles when it comes to ease-of-use and proper use. With regard to labeling, some members felt that patients may be led to believe that it is for daily use when only actually intended for intermittent use. All of these things resulted in 17 panel members voting no, in terms of safety.
The end result, for now, is that the new Primatene HFA will not be in pharmacy and store shelves any time soon, but the drug does show promise. It does work, and there is a need for it. Undoubtedly, Armstrong will revisit the inhaler and attempt to address issues of misuse or mishandling.
Author: K. Gilmore
To read past Ask an Allergist questions and answers.
Oh, and just a reminder, there is only ONE week left of our Annual White Sale! Take advantage while you can on discounted allergy bedding, organic cotton bedding and other healthy bedding products.
Author: K. Gilmore
Halle Berry is one of the seven million people who cannot enjoy shrimp cocktails or a romantic lobster dinner, or any mollusks because of her shellfish allergy. Luckily this doesn't include Swordfish! Shellfish allergy symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling of the lips, face, tongue throat, or any body part, trouble breathing, stomach pain, dizziness, and even anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, many do not know they are allergic until they are adults.
Quirky Zooey Deschanel can only have oatmeal with almond milk for breakfast. Well, that’s what I would serve her, due to her lactose intolerance, celiac disease and egg allergy. Lactose intolerance and egg allergies can be hard on the digestive tract while celiac disease leads to the inability to absorb sufficient amounts of calcium and iron often leading to osteoporosis and anemia.
Let’s be grateful that Kim Kardashian is not allergic to latex. That would cut her wardrobe in half! However, she is allergic to cats. Approximately 10 million people are allergic to cats, making this the most common pet allergy in the U.S. What makes Kimmie sneeze and sniff is not the cat hair itself but the protein in the dander of felines.
Bouncing over to the world of sports, Serena Williams does not go to peanuts as a source of protein. Peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, wheezing, nausea and itching and tingling in or around the mouth and throat. Almond butter is a great alternative with high amounts of magnesium, iron and calcium.
And last but not least, Miley Cyrus could possibly be allergic to pants. Sadly, she can’t go anywhere that’s not similar to LA weather.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the weather before another snow storm drifts our way!
Author: Rachel P.
As a non smoker, I’m not a fan of the stench of smoke in my hair and clothes, and it’s the number one “no-no” for my teeth and skin health (along with overall health, of course). Moving from a state that had no indoor smoking establishments (except BBQ joints, hardy har-har!) to a state that permits smoking in restaurants and bars that serve to persons over 18, this was just one more thing to adapt to. But it would seem that thanks to electronic cigarettes, we can all have our cake and eat it too.
Electronic cigarettes, aka e-cigarettes, hit the scene around 2007, following the hookah fad which took to trend in 2005. They are becoming mainstream with shops opening up in cities like Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia, offering a plethora of flavors to "vape" or "smoke". The design is similar to an actual cigarette (some even look like real cigarettes) but includes a colored LED light which lights up when the nicotine solution is heated in an atomizer, vaporized and ready to inhale.
As these electronic cigarettes become more mainstream, we have to ask if they are a healthier alternative to cigarettes. We can consider that they cut down on second hand smoke, which is harmful to children, asthmatics and those with MCS, and they cut down on waste (cigarette butts take over 12 years to biodegrade).
Western Europe has embraced them. University of Auckland in New Zealand sees them as effective as nicotine patches, and the University of Athens, Greece considers them a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking. Dr. Jacques Le Houezec, a French consultant in public health and tobacco dependence, declares cigarettes to have levels of toxicants that are 9 to 450 higher than in e-cigarettes.
For the most part it seems that they are getting the thumbs up as a healthier alternative to Camel, and Lucky Strike (ever seen the pilot for Mad Men? You must if you haven’t!). Research and regulations are only beginning to make progress to ensure that use of e-cigarettes, or vapins, is safer than actual cigarettes, a claim long held by e-cigarette manufacturers and supported by some in the medical community.
Overall, there has been a relative lack of research as to longterm health effects of using e-cigarettes, but initial studies do show an impact on the airways after just a few minutes of use. While they do contain less of the 400 chemicals (40 of which are carcinogens) found in conventional cigarettes, it is probably too early to deem them "healthy". But perhaps most troubling for many is the proliferation of sweet and candy-like flavors that have cropped up in recent years. Like Cherry, Vanilla, and Berry flavored smokeless tobacco and the old Joe Camel cartoon character before them, sweetly flavored e-cigarettes seem to be geared toward children. Though some flavors contain nicotine while others do not, Bananas Foster, Caramel Apple, Cheesecake, Strawberries & Cream, and Watermelon Bubblegum are all nicotine flavors available for e-cigarettes.
Currently there are no federal age restrictions on the sale or use of e-cigarettes, though some states limit sales to those over the age of 18. Growth in this industry has been tremendous, particularly in the last few years, and this trend doesn't show any signs of slowing down. As things surrounding this topic continue to change, including research as to their health vs. harm, I'll keep you updated.
Author: R. Power
There are a several reasons why Santa Fe is the preferred choice for homeowners.
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Range of Options - Each Santa Fe dehumidifier is a little different, in terms of coverage, efficiency, and performance. Some, like the Compact2, Classic and Rx dehumidifiers are built for specific settings, like a tight crawlspace, basement or any room actually in your home or office, respectively. Regardless of the space in your home that you're trying to dry, you can be sure that you have options when it comes to selecting the one right for you. In addition to the dehumidifiers themselves, each has an array of optional accessories. From condensate pump kits and casters to ducting kits, Santa Fe dehumidifier are versatile and highly customizable for your specific needs.
Author: K. Gilmore
Immunotherapy has been a successful form of allergy relief for wasp-sting allergies and grass pollen. At its core, immunotherapy is a long, slow process of reintroducing tiny amounts of a particular allergen to patients. Over time, the amounts of the substance patients ingest or are exposed to increases with that hope of leading to a higher, long term tolerance of the allergen. With regard to peanut allergies, this has been the most successful study so far, and gives hope to parents who are constantly on the lookout for even trace amounts of peanuts that can send the severely allergic into anaphylactic shock. In the future this type of treatment could relieve much of the worry associated with trace amounts of allergens causing severe reactions and help lift many of the precautionary diet restrictions those with food allergies often have to impose.
While we wait for more research, long term test results, and potential FDA approval for this treatment, avoidance remains one of the best options for those dealing with food allergies. Though peanut butter might not be one the menu just yet, here are some Peanut/ nut substitute suggestions without the risk of allergic reactions.
- Sunflower seed butter
- Soy nut butter
Author: R. Power
If allergies have gotten you down this winter, take a look at any in our line of mattress, pillow and duvet covers. Each effectively blocks dust mites, pollen and other common household allergens that can hide in your bedding and keep you from getting a peaceful night's sleep.
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Author: K. Gilmore
Like traditional allergy shots, the idea behind the treatment is to desensitize people who are allergic to cats. The big difference between this and traditional shots is two-fold. First, the shots are not subcutaneous, meaning they are more shallow and do not go beneath the skin. Second, the length of the proposed treatment would be significantly shorter, four to eight months as opposed to the more traditional three to five years worth of shots. This can not only make the process more convenient but hopefully less costly and invasive.
The current trial is accepting people who have had cat allergies for at least two years, have a cat living at home with them, and are between the ages of 12 and 65. As the largest clinical study of this treatment to date, the CATALYST (Cat Allergy Study) is accepting over 1100 volunteers from seven countries.
For people coping with cat allergies, this could be a dramatic step forward in treatment. Often times allergists recommend removing your cat from the household, and as one of the most common household pets, those with cat allergies often have allergic reactions outside of their own homes. Cat dander is one of the smallest of common household allergens, and to make matters worse, it's "sticky". This means that in places where cats have been, it's often extremely difficult to remove cat dander since it adheres to walls, furnishings, and flooring, nearly everything in a room. Nearly one in three households have cats. In addition to allergies, there is also a link to asthma reactions and cats, with one study showing over a quarter of asthma attacks being triggered by cat allergen. So, the potential that a shorter, less invasive and successful treatment holds a great deal of hope for the millions with allergies or asthma.
The basis of the treatment is the proprietary ToleroMune technology. Molecules called SPIRES (Synthetic Peptide Immuno-Regulatory Epitopes) generate regulatory T cells. These T cells control the allergic response and stimulate tolerance of specific allergens.
Circassia is also working on a similar treatment for dust mite allergies, and back in September of 2013 they announced results of their phase-two trials. In this study, patients who had received four doses of the treatment over 12 weeks showed significant improvement one year after the start of the trial. This smaller phase-two study will likely in the steps of the cat allergy trials. With success, they will move on to larger, clinical, phase-three trials. In addition dust mites, Circassia has also finished phase-two trials of the same treatment for ragweed and grass allergies.
While we continue to patiently wait and hope, avoidance and more traditional measures, like the use of a high quality HEPA air purifier or antihistamines remain some of the best way to reduce allergic reactions to cat.
For more information on these phase-three clinical trials, contact your local certified allergist or visit the clinicaltrials.gov website
Author: K. Gilmore