Arizona: Asthma, Allergies, and Lung Triggers

June 28, 2022

Arizona: Asthma, Allergies, and Lung Triggers

Dr. Nicole Sundene

Scottsdale Naturopathic Doctor

If you have asthma, or breathing problems and live in Arizona you should be aware of the following patterns and schedules of pollen, infectious disease, and air quality impacting my patient’s lung health.

Basically, the take home asthma message today as we enter the summer fire season and monsoons that have my patients extra triggered despite lowering pollen levels is that there is always SOMETHING in Arizona triggering asthma attacks whether it be smoke/infections in the summer months or the constant pollen from Ragweed that is noxious here, and creates two separate allergy seasons.

In Phoenix we have Spring allergies AND Fall allergies as I discuss further on my Season Allergies blog. So if we are not constantly targeting an allergy prevention program as we will discuss today to prevent asthma flares, patients can struggle with their breathing all summer long, despite the break we get from pollen once we are above 100F and little can bloom. With asthma in Arizona we must protect the lungs from the latest triggers, and try our best to plan and target natural treatments for prevention ahead of these very common lung irritants. 

It is important that women with asthma and allergies understand that the majority of things flying around in our air in Phoenix is dust, fungus, smoke from wildfires, and pollution. Women with a history of yeast allergy, fungal allergy, and so forth will be very triggered with their asthma from living here and a combination of natural treatments can be helpful or I would advise considering moving elsewhere if you are asthma patient. If you cannot move away from the poor air quality here, then at least pay close attention to my allergy schedule below, and write on your calendar a reminder to start natural allergy supplements at least two weeks before the pollen you react to begins to bloom.

For most of my allergy patients they need to take my natural remedies all year long.

I never had allergies until I moved here, and the allergies are something fierce that requires an aggressive natural solution and/or over the counter antihistamines or both. Anytime the weather is in the 70’s-90’s the plants will be blooming and my patients will be reacting adversely and having asthma flares that are difficult to control when we are not using enough histamine lowering treatments and addressing the root cause. 

Anytime we have dust storms and monsoons we are at higher risk of developing Valley Fever, or being bit by a mosquito with West Nile virus or Malaria which is now in the US again. After every heavy rain comes mosquitoes. Checking your yard for standing water and eliminating all sources for mosquitoes to breed is imperative for asthma patients.

During windy times of the monsoon season I advise asthma patients to stay inside with their allergies and asthma. Get a HEPA UV filter for your bedroom and the areas in your home you spend the most time in if not for your entire home. 

If you are allergic to your pets at least keep them out of your bedroom during flare months. The "Total Load" of histamine adds up. Some triggers we can get away with when the pollen count is lower and it is not a windy day in the desert, the better. For instance when my breathing is bad that is when I eat my perfect clean PGE-2 Diet to reduce inflammation.

Of further challenge to my asthma patients during the hot, dry Phoenix summer, are the wildfires and polluted air making us sick in the summer months, which is why I drink my “Asthma Lung” recipe as a natural preventive cough medicine. Keeping my lungs calm and less reactive during the summer fires is critical to preventing asthma flares. 

If you live near a golf course and are allergic to grass, call your local golf course and ask them to share their seeding and mowing schedule so you can stay inside on those days. Certain types of grass seeds when the golf courses are heavily seeding their courses, seems to also trigger my asthma patients. 

I have put this page together so asthma patients in Arizona can easily reference what may be making them sick. I like to use a baseball model to explain how we need to use this to prevent severe asthma flares. The allergies, food, or environmental trigger is like the pitcher serving up the pitch, and the batter is the lungs going hyper reactive to the new trigger. 

So by becoming aware of our environmental triggers for asthma in Phoenix we can work to target and better understand when we need to implement allergy medicine at its highest as 70% of asthma is caused by allergies. We referred to this as “Eosinophilic Asthma,” and this can be easily diagnosed by CBC, as we will see a high levels of Eosinophils or EOS as it is printed out from most labs. 

Patients with Eosinophilic Asthma will feel the worst in March to May generally in Arizona and then again in October/November is my experience. If you are planning a trip to Phoenix and have asthma visit outside those months or the best time for allergies is when it is cold in December and January, unless you are allergic to the evil Ragweed here that makes so many patients sick then let's plan your natural allergy program for all year round!

In my professional opinion, any asthma patients with an eosinophil count above 3 should be treated for allergies with natural medicine, and may need something stronger, such as a prescription drug temporarily to achieve better control while we work to understand individualized triggers. In order to be non-reactive with your lungs these eosinophils should be as close to zero as possible. Ideally no more than 0-2 range. When my patients need an epi-pen for severe peanut allergy for instance, they are usually around 6-7 eosinophils. So anything higher than that requires and aggressive antihistamine program that includes addressing the "Root Cause" of the eosinophils.

JANUARY

Ragweed, Cottonwood

Cold/Flu Season Peaks

High Winds= Dust/Fungus

FEBRUARY

Cottonwood, Citrus, Ragweed

Cold/Flu Season

High Winds= Dust/Fungus

MARCH=WORST ASTHMA MONTH IN ARIZONA

Ragweed, Mesquite, Mulberry, Cactus, Citrus, Ash

Cold/Flu Season Peaks or Winds Down

APRIL

Ragweed, Mesquite, Mulberry, Cactus, Ash

Cold/Flu Season Ending

MAY

Ragweed, Mesquite, Cactus, Careless Weed, Ash, Russian Thistle

Travel Germs Peak =Memorial Day Weekend

JUNE

Grass, Careless Weed, (Pollen Generally Low Otherwise)

Travel Germs Peak =Summer Vacation

JULY

Grass, Careless Weed, (Pollen Generally Low Otherwise) 

Travel Germs Peak 4th of July

Dust Storms= Fungus Allergy/Valley Fever

West Nile Virus

AUGUST

Grass

Valley Fever

West Nile Virus- Use Bug Repellant

Back to School Germs

Dust Storms= Fungus Allergy/Valley Fever

SEPTEMBER

Grass, Juniper, Careless Weed, Russian Thistle Blooms, Fall Blooms Begin

Valley Fever

West Nile Virus

Dust Storms= Fungus Allergy/Valley Fever

OCTOBER

Ragweed, Grass, Juniper, Russian Thistle (Peaks)

Cold/Flu Season Begins

NOVEMBER

Ragweed, Grass, Juniper, Russian Thistle (Peaks)

Cold/Flu Season Begins

DECEMBER

Juniper, Ragweed

Cold/Flu Season Peaks

This information has been compiled via my daily use of Pollen.com which I recommend every single asthma and allergy patient load the app on their phone, subscribe to daily email updates, and follow your local allergy report every morning like an Investor studying stock markets!!

After all, having healthy lungs and being able to breathe without feeling like you are sucking air through a sponge is worth more than millions of dollars to many of my patients. When you cannot breathe you cannot do anything and life is pretty low energy and miserable. So making BFF's with Pollen.com should have you working at all times to prevent an asthma attack.

While these plants generally bloom around these times, they are also dependent on rain and sunshine. Every time we have a heavy rain in Spring and Fall soon after my allergy patients are really suffering.

The #1 important thing you know if you cannot breathe is what is blooming around you as a part of your preventive Allergy Program can stop an asthma flare.

Seasonal Allergies and the other lung irritants here are like baseball "pitches" being served up to your lungs. Once the ball gets served up it is only a matter of time before I hear that "crack of the bat" where the inflammation from allergies suddenly turns into an infection or an uncontrolled asthma attack in my patients. Treating allergies seriously and aggressively is very important to help anyone recover and improve their lung function. Let's stop throwing baseballs or "triggers" at the lungs the best we can and remove the pitcher from this scenario.

Valley Fever can be very challenging for asthma patients. Having inflamed lung tissue, and lung damage creates a larger surface area for germs to adhere to. Steroid inhalers that most asthma patients are dependent on impair the immune system in the lungs and create a breeding ground for a fungal infection. So my primary goal for all of my asthma patients especially in Arizona, is to work to get them off steroids as it is the last thing their immunocompromised state needs and sets them up for worse outcomes over time.

West Nile Virus when injected into animals with breathing problems caused them to die due to nervous system lesions impacting breathing, so researchers then concluded, "neurological lesions affecting respiratory function may be the primary cause of human WNV-induced death."

Malaria is back in the US, and asthma patients should get tested if they have been to a hot area where mosquitoes are. For infections that are not clearing go to the Emergency Room for testing.

On other random lung notes, as a hormone doctor I do commonly catch hypothyroidism and other hormone imbalance contributing to shortness of breath. As this is a common menopausal complaint women ask me and think "Is this what old age is like? This sucks. I can barely walk up a flight of stairs! Why am I huffing and puffing and so out of shape?"

Menopause has just shifted their thyroid into deficiency and that is why they are short of breath, exhausted, and having hair loss.

So checking that your hormones are okay can impact your asthma. In case any women are googling about that. I do commonly hear this complaint in a cluster of other random symptoms which should be a warning sign for women to get their hormones tested if they have the symptoms on my thyroid and hormone blogs! It certainly cannot hurt anything!

Pollen tracking can help us know when we need to target immune support and allergy treatments for asthma patients depending on where they live, and what they react to.

Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's, and low thyroid function, or thyroid deficiency can all indeed cause shortness of breath. Whether thyroid function is too high or too low is not good for the lungs.

Please never treat your asthma naturally without the skilled guidance of a Naturopathic Doctor trained to treat asthma, such as myself. While the remedies on my Seasonal Allergies and Nettles blogs are generally safe keep in mind that natural medicines are generally NOT effective in asthma emergencies.

All asthma emergencies should be handled by 911/ER and never at a Naturopathic Doctor.

Instead where my Naturopathic Asthma program excels is in helping to nourish the lungs, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce allergic attacks upon them. This then reduces inflammation in the lungs, by reducing the total burden upon them from inflammation, infection, allergies, food triggers, and other environmental triggers beyond our control.

When I take my time to do all of this for my asthma patients, I often hear that they keep their rescue inhalers I prescribe them on hand for emergency only, but are no longer having regular asthma episodes because we have addressed their personal asthma triggers at the "Root Cause."

Simply visit my SCHEDULE page if you need my help with your asthma. I would be happy to help you breathe better! That is one of my favorite things to do!

Dr. Nicole Sundene

(480) 837-0900

Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause,  Thyroid,  Hashimotos,  PMS, PerimenopauseAutoimmunePostpartumChronic Fatigue, DepressionAnxiety, Food Allergies,  DigestionDermatology, AcnePsoriasis Eczema, and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best-integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. 

She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan (not Medicaid) and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!

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