Carolinas HealthCare System
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Is it Allergies, or is it Asthma? The Answer is in Your Nose

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Doctor Spotlight

Shetul I Patel, MD

Shetul Patel, MD

Specialty: Pediatrics

Shelby Childrens Clinic
709 N. DeKalb St.
Shelby, NC 28150

Medical School
American University of the Caribbean

Every spring (and again in the fall), misery in the form of allergies visits millions of Americans. Allergies are the No. 1 reason for missed school days and work days.

“An allergy is an inflammatory reaction to something the body does not like,” said Shetul Patel, MD, of Shelby Children’s Clinic, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. “The reaction can be a runny nose, itchy eyes, red or irritated skin, coughing or wheezing, lack of concentration or even fatigue.”

According to Dr. Patel, allergy attacks are triggered by allergens that enter the body in several ways. “They can be inhaled (tree and ragweed pollen, mold spores, pet dander and dust mites); swallowed (food or medicine); absorbed through contact with the skin; or injected (like penicillin or insect venom), he said.

Just as physically taxing – and sometimes confused with allergies – is another ailment that can inhibit easy breathing: asthma. Asthma is a chronic (meaning long-term) respiratory disease that makes breathing difficult because of inflammation that causes the air passages to narrow. Asthma can be triggered by exercise, infections, cold air and even stress. The things that trigger allergies can also trigger asthma attacks: flowering trees, pets, dust. Which is why the two conditions are often confused.

The Connection

“Making the two even more linked is the fact that allergy attacks can lead to asthma attacks,” said Dr. Patel. “With both allergies and asthma, your immune system reacts to fight off whatever it is that started the reaction. The resulting inflammation causes your airways to become significantly narrowed.”

According to Dr. Patel, if there is a family history of allergy, the chances of developing an allergy are increased. “If one parent is allergic, the child has up to a 50 percent chance of having allergies. If both parents suffer, the probability may be as high as 70 percent,” he added.

Tips for avoiding asthma attacks

  • Avoid triggers such as pollen, dust and mold
  • Take medications as directed (may include a bronchodilator, or inhaler, for asthma; or allergy injections for allergies)
  • Limit outdoor activity when pollen count is high
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Avoid wood smoke
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom, and bathe pets every week. Vacuum often and mop your floors every week

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The primary care doctors at Carolinas HealthCare System can help you get (and stay) on the path to wellness.

Call 844-881-2180 or complete an online request form to find a doctor near you.