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On the nose

Learn about allergies, asthma

Allergies and asthma affect people of all ages and often exist together.

National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is held each May — the peak season for people who have these conditions.

Allergies are your body’s immune reactions to foreign substances — allergens — that are typically harmless for most people.

Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, food, medication and venom from insect stings and bites. Food allergies — including those linked to milk, egg, fish and tree nuts — are also common.

Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, breathing problems, itching and swelling. Some allergies are life-threatening.

Asthma is a type of allergic reaction and a chronic condition that affects the lungs. While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, genetic, environmental and occupational factors have been linked to developing asthma.

Allergies and asthma affect people of all ages. They often exist together, and the likelihood for occurrence runs in families.

Allergies are diagnosed by skin and blood tests and treated with medication, allergy shots and avoiding substances that cause reactions. Asthma is diagnosed by reviewing medical history, allergies and pulmonary diagnostic tests.

Treatment for both conditions varies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USPS May Wellness Toolkit websites have more information on allergies and asthma.