Asthma and Allergy Awareness

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Asthma and Allergy Awareness

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month


May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Since 1984, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has declared May to be “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.” It is a peak season for people with asthma and allergies and a perfect time to educate patients, family, friends, co-workers, and others about these diseases.1

Did you know?

  • Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children2
  • Asthma affects an estimated 262 million people worldwide2
  • Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States (U.S.) with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion3
  • More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year3

What is asthma?

Asthma is a common noncommunicable lung condition that causes sporadic breathing difficulties and affects children and adults. According to the World Health Organization, “Asthma is by the swelling and narrowing of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs.” 4

What causes asthma?

It is often difficult to find a direct cause but many factor can contribute to an increased risk of developing asthma:

  • It is more likely if other family members also have asthma4
  • It is more likely in people who have other allergic conditions, such as eczema and hay fever4
  • Events in early life affect the developing lungs and can increase the risk of asthma4
  • Exposure to a range of environmental allergens and irritants are also thought to increase the risk of asthma4
  • Children and adults who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of asthma4

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Common symptoms include:

  • Breathlessness4
  • Coughing4
  • Wheezing4
  • Chest Tightness5
  • Shortness of breath5

The severity and frequency of the symptoms vary from person-to-person, and for some, become worse during physical activity and at night.4

An asthma attack happens when symptoms get significantly worse. Asthma attacks can be fatal but are largely preventable and manageable. If a person appears to be having an asthma attack they should sit up straight and take slow, regular breaths (ideally using a spacer), and take regular breaths from their inhaler, as per their treatment plan instructions. If possible, a medical provider should be contacted immediately.4

What are the triggers for asthma?

Asthma triggers vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Viral infections (colds)2
  • Dust2
  • Smoke2
  • Fumes2
  • Changes in the weather2
  • Grass and tree pollen2
  • Animal fur and feathers2
  • Strong soaps2
  • Perfume2
  • Exercise6
  • Medicines6
  • Hormones6

What Is an Allergy?

An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. It could be something you eat, inhale into your lungs, inject into your body, or touch.

How do seasonal allergies affect asthma?

With asthma, symptoms can get worse during allergy season. That’s because the immune system sees allergens, like pollen or dust, as harmful. In response, the body releases a substance called immunoglobulin E (or IgE) to attack it. However, too much IgE can cause swelling in the airways, making it harder to breathe and possibly triggering an asthma attack.7

What can I do to help with seasonal allergies?7  

While there are certain things that can’t be controlled, like the weather, there is no need to suffer through allergy season. Here are some quick tips:

  • Limit exposure to allergens by keeping windows and doors shut at home
  • Stay inside during mid-day to afternoon hours, when the pollen count is at its peak
  • Monitor daily pollen counts to avoid certain exposure
  • Wear a mask when doing outdoor chores, such as mowing the lawn, and always shower afterward

If you have questions about asthma or allergies contact your health care provider for advice and support.




  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, May Is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, https://www.aafa.org/asthma-and-allergy-awareness-month/. Updated April 2022
  2. World Health Organization, Asthma, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma. Updated May 11, 2022.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Allergies, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm Last reviewed February 1, 2023
  4. World Health Organization, Chronic respiratory diseases: asthma, https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/chronic-respiratory-diseases-asthma. Updated: May 3, 2021.
  5. Cigna, Monitoring Asthma Treatment, https://www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/hw/monitoring-asthma-treatment-uf4624abc. Updated March 9, 2022.
  6. Cigna, Asthma: Identifying Your Triggers, https://www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/hw/medical-topics/asthma-aa6768. Updated March 9, 2022.
  7. Express Scripts, Tips for surviving seasonal allergies with asthma, https://www.express-scripts.com/pharmacy/blog/surviving-seasonal-allergies-with-asthma. Updated April 5, 2022.

This information is for educational purposes only. It's not medical advice. Always consult with your health care provider for appropriate examinations, treatment and health care recommendations.

This article serves only as a reference and is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, tax, financial planning, health or medical advice including diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. References to third-party organizations or companies, and/or their products, processes or services, do not constitute an endorsement or warranty thereof. Products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions and are expressly excluded where prohibited by applicable law. All group insurance policies and health benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For costs and details of coverage, contact a Cigna Healthcare representative.

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