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Smoking contributes to asthma condition worsened by aspirin use

Exposure to cigarette smoke could be one cause of AERD.

Although researchers have been able to associate smoking and prolonged secondary exposure to smoke with a myriad of other health conditions, researchers had not been able to link smoking with aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) until the results of a recent study were published last month.

AERD, also known as Samter's triad, is a condition that afflicts those with asthma. Sufferers of AERD initially experience common allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and congestion due to pollen and other triggers. However, if AERD sufferers are exposed to aspirin while the body is experiencing an allergic reaction, they could undergo an asthma attack or develop anaphylaxis up to three hours after taking the drug. In many cases, AERD sufferers will temporarily lose their sense of smell due to inflammation in the nose.

The study of 260 AERD sufferers, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology last month, found that smokers and those who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke are much more likely to develop AERD. Researchers found an especially significant correlation between exposure to smoke during one's childhood and AERD symptoms emerging in adulthood. In addition, those who were regularly exposed to smoke both as children and adults were the most likely to develop AERD.

The best way for at-risk individuals to avoid an asthma attack related to AERD is to avoid aspirin use altogether. A doctor may be able to suggest an aspirin alternative, such as acetaminophen, that can relieve pain as effectively as aspirin does. A doctor can also conduct aspirin desensitization, whereby a patient is exposed to aspirin incrementally until it no longer has a negative effect. In general, those with asthma or AERD should always carry an inhaler or epinephrine injector in case they experience an asthma attack.

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