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Asthma and Allergy: Not Do-it-Yourself Diseases!

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Do it yourself!  That was my idea when I decided to remove the wallpaper from my wife’s kitchen.   It was a disaster!  Or the time I decided to “re-build” a 1973 Jeep CJ-5.  How hard could it be?  I had a manual, the internet, YouTube videos and even my Neighbor Mike.  Well, I over estimated myself and underestimated the talents, skills, knowledge and background that individuals trained in these areas possess.   Let a professional help!  This applies to asthma and allergy diagnosis and treatment as well.

Self diagnosis and self-treatment for asthma and allergies has pitfalls!


People with asthma routinely tend to underestimate the severity of their asthma.  It is well established, that a patient’s symptoms alone “under appreciate” the control of asthma.  Studies have shown that 2/3 of people feel their asthma is controlled, but by criteria established by the NHLBI (National Heart Lung Blood Institute), only 1/3 are actually controlled.  Just because a person “feels fine” doesn’t mean their asthma is controlled.   There can be a big disconnect between symptoms and how well asthma is controlled.  In the office, a breathing test called spirometry can assist in determining if the asthma is controlled.  You wouldn’t manage your diabetes without checking blood sugar, would you?

Chronic Cough: Is it asthma or from some other cause?  Cough is very common and can be a sign that frequently goes along with a cold virus or it may be something much more.  Patients with cough-variant asthma (they don’t wheeze, have chest tightness or shortness of breath) are typically those that come to diagnosis later than others with asthma.  Other causes of cough can include post nasal drip from allergies or sinus infections, pertussis (Whooping cough) and even acid GE reflux.   There are numerous other reasons for a person to cough including lung tumors, foreign bodies in the airway or esophagus and so on.  Don’t be lured into using a cough suppressant.  It’s better to treat the cause of the cough specifically!

Allergies:  Individuals frequently reach for “Benadryl” to treat their allergies.  While this will improve symptoms, the side effects can be significant.  Studies have shown the impairment effect on reaction time while driving a car while taking diphenhydramine is similar to that of drinking alcohol.  The newer medications can be just as effective without the unwanted side effects.   If you want long term relief, allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy injections) are a natural proven way to relieve allergies where the good effects persist even after the series of injections are stopped.

Food Allergies:  The incidence of food allergies is about 1 in 13 children and less in adults.  It can be tricky deciphering a food intolerance from a food allergy.  The difference is important; food allergies can be deadly while food intolerances are uncomfortable.  Trying a taste of that peanut, nut, fish, milk or egg at home after previously experiencing a reaction, may prompt a 911 call or trip to the ER.

Bee sting reaction:  You were stung by that flying black and yellow insect and had a reaction.  It could have been a yellow jacket, wasp, hornet or honey bee.  It didn’t seem severe enough to go to the doctor.  Maybe I’ll just wait and see what happens next time I’m stung.  This may not be such a good idea! Adults who have experienced hives from insect stings are at an increased risk for anaphylaxis. Any person (regardless of age) who has had breathing problems, throat tightness, or worse is also at higher risk for a severe reaction.  Allergy shots for venom can significantly reduce the risk of having an anaphylatic reaction if a person is stung again.  Self-injectable epinephrine is important, but why not decrease your risk of anaphylaxis in the first place?

There are many reliable resources to assist a person in managing asthma and allergies.  These include:

At Family Allergy& Asthma Care of Montana, we are here to help.   While it’s admirable to strive for self-diagnosis and self-treatment in this age of unlimited “facts” from the internet, don’t take chances with your health.  Similarly, if you need work on your car, truck or Jeep, contact Joe or Tom at Precision Auto in Bozeman at 406-522-3911 or

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. 

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