Indoor or outdoor, seasonal or year-round, all types of allergies can potentially cause constant coughing. Along with a runny nose, sneezing and watery and itchy eyes, allergic cough can be disruptive and annoying. Coughing associated with allergies is often caused by postnasal drip, when mucus from your nose runs down the back of the throat. Allergic asthma may also cause persistent coughing 2. With this type of asthma, symptoms are triggered by exposure to allergens, such as pollen, dust mites and mold spores.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Get Your Allergies Under Control
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing persistent coughing that you suspect may be related to allergies. Your doctor will perform a physical examination, ask questions about your medical history and may recommend allergy testing to determine what substances are triggering your cough.
How to Get Rid of an Allergy Cough
Take the medications your doctor prescribes. Your treatment plan may include an antihistamine to reduce stuffiness, a decongestant to help dry up mucus and possibly a prescription or over-the-counter cough medicine. If you have allergic asthma, take your asthma medicines as prescribed.
Follow up with your doctor if she recommends immunotherapy, commonly called allergy shots. This treatment decreases your sensitivity to allergy triggers and, over time, can reduce your symptoms, including persistent coughing.
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing persistent coughing that you suspect may be related to allergies.
- This treatment decreases your sensitivity to allergy triggers and, over time, can reduce your symptoms, including persistent coughing.
Avoid Exposure to Allergy Triggers
Remedy for a Bronchitis Cough
Avoid exposure to substances you know you are allergic to — a strategy known as allergen avoidance. Whether you have a cough related to seasonal allergies or allergic asthma, this is an important part of managing allergy symptoms.
Stay away from cigarette and wood smoke, which irritate the airways and may trigger bouts of coughing. Also avoid exposure to strong, irritating fumes, such as those from cleaning products, fragrances or industrial chemicals.
Avoid being outdoors when pollen and mold counts are high if you have seasonal allergies. Keep allergens out of your home by keeping windows closed. Minimizing your time outdoors when the air quality is poor and during periods of high humidity or very cold weather may also help reduce allergy-related coughing.
Clean your home thoroughly to reduce allergens in the home. Dust and vacuum regularly, and wear a mask when cleaning to prevent breathing in allergens. Using an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filter may also trap allergens and keep the air in your home cleaner.
If you continue to experience persistent coughing, visit your doctor to determine whether your treatment plan requires revision.
If you experience trouble breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness or wheezing, seek immediate medical attention.
DEAR DR. ROACH: For months, I have had a persistent cough that I have been unable to get help with. I saw an allergist about three years ago and was told I am allergic to dust mites (I understand a large number of people fit into this category). I was first referred to a lung doctor where X-rays showed that my cheek sinus drains were completely blocked, and then to an ear, nose and throat doctor, who also confirmed this diagnosis.
This ENT doctor recommended I have surgery to unblock the drains and clear out the sinus area. I understand that sinus drainage can cause coughing and wonder if this would still make me cough. I sometimes cough until I can cough up something, and this seems to stop my cough for a while. I was using a nasal rinse for a while until about two weeks ago when it caused my nose to bleed. The ENT doctor prescribed antibiotics and oral steroids that did not make any difference. It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether I’m home or sitting in the doctor’s office, I’m still coughing. What is the best way to deal with dust mite allergy?
ANSWER: There are many causes of chronic cough, but postnasal drip is at the top of the list. Dust mites are indeed a common allergen, and symptoms may include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and cough from postnasal drip.
Specific treatment for dust mites should include physical barriers, such as covers for pillows and mattresses, and sometimes for other soft surfaces, like furniture cushions, but this is only part of an effective strategy. Removing as many fabrics as possible (draperies, carpets, stuffed children’s toys) where dust mites can live is essential. Regular cleaning is necessary, and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for vacuuming have been shown to reduce dust mites. A low-humidity environment can be very effective in discouraging dust mites, and cooler air — especially at night — can reduce irritation of nasal passages caused by dry air. Many interventions for a prolonged period are necessary to reduce dust mite infestation and the symptoms associated with them.
This is critical, because the issue of the sinuses is probably secondary to ongoing allergic exposure. Fixing your sinuses will not fix your ongoing symptoms. Without control of the allergens, you will continue to have symptoms and may even develop sinus blockages again, no matter how good a job the surgeon does on your sinuses.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am an 87-year-old man in good health. Recently my physician discovered that I was having atrial fibrillation. I had no symptoms. My pulse was 80. He placed me on Eliquis twice daily, which I am taking. I feel fine, but I dislike taking anticoagulants and prefer other treatment for my condition. Is there other treatment you recommend?
ANSWER: Atrial fibrillation is a common rhythm disturbance. Treatment is designed to reduce symptoms, prevent heart damage from too fast a heart rate, and prevent a stroke from a blood clot. Since you have had no symptoms and your heart rate is normal, you need no therapy to control your heart rate. However, you are at increased risk for stroke just because you are over 75 years old, and oral anticoagulation from apixaban (Eliquis) or another agent is strongly recommended. Without treatment, you have about a 4% risk of stroke per year. With treatment, your risk is only about 1%. It’s much riskier NOT to take the medicine.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
At Healthfully, we strive to deliver objective content that is accurate and up-to-date. Our team periodically reviews articles in order to ensure content quality. The sources cited below consist of evidence from peer-reviewed journals, prominent medical organizations, academic associations, and government data.
The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a professional health care provider. Please check with the appropriate physician regarding health questions and concerns. Although we strive to deliver accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee to that effect is made.
A gagging cough can interfere with daily activities including sleeping, talking and eating. It can also be very frightening to cough so hard you gag. Numerous conditions, such as bronchitis, the common cold, the flu and allergies, can cause a gagging cough. In most cases, however, gagging is simply the result of excessive coughing and not indicative of an underlying problem.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Contact a general practice physician if your cough has lasted for more than seven days or if you have a fever above 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Your cough may be caused by an infection or other illness requiring medical treatment. Your doctor will examine you to determine if the cough is caused by something serious and may prescribe medication to alleviate your symptoms and clear up any infection.
Seal-Like Cough in Children
Install a humidifier in your bedroom at night and drink lots of water. Dehydration can make a cough worse, and coughing frequently causes a dry throat. If your throat is dry, you may cough and gag more. The humidifier will provide your body and mucous membranes with added moisture that will help you heal more rapidly while you sleep 4.
Suck on sugar-free hard candy or cough drops during the day. Peppermints and cough drops containing menthol are especially effective at soothing a cough. By coughing less, you are less likely to dry out your throat.
How to Stop a Statin Cough
Take medication containing guaifenesin, which helps to break up mucus. Excess mucus buildup is a common cause of excessive coughing, and guaifenesin will help to make coughs more productive and less dry and painful. If your throat is scratchy or tickly and you have pain in your sinuses, take a decongestant, which may also help eliminate coughing.
Never give hard candy to children under 5. Contact a pediatrician prior to giving your child over-the-counter cough medicine and decongestants.
It’s what you do when something bugs your throat, whether that’s dust or postnasal drip. It also helps clear your lungs and windpipe. However, this can also lead to inflammation of the cells lining the upper airways.Many coughs, like those from cold and flu, will go away on their own. If yours comes from a more serious medical condition, you need to treat the cause. Whatever the reason, there are ways to feel better.
Drink plenty of fluids — or use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer — to soothe an irritated throat and loosen mucus. Have a little honey before bed. Studies show the sweet stuff can help ease a cough. Don’t give honey to children under 12 months, though. You may want to try over-the-counter remedies that also contain soothing ingredients such as aloe or menthol.
You may want to try natural over the counter products that contain very low doses of aspirin. When it is applied to inflamed tissues caused by an upper respiratory infection it helps reduce the symptoms of sore throat.
Calm a ‘Wet’ Cough
If it’s hard to get the mucus out, or if it’s thick, look for medicine that says “expectorant.” That loosens the gunk to help you get rid of it. If you’re having post-nasal drip with lots of juicy mucous, you may do better with a medicine that dries you up like Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). If you have cough with fever or shortness of breath call your doctor. Also check with them before you use cough medicine for serious conditions like emphysema, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, or asthma. And don’t give cough and cold medicine to children under 4.
Calm a ‘Dry’ Cough
You may get one with a cold or the flu, or if you breathe in something irritating like dust or smoke. Medicine that says “suppressant” helps stop your urge to cough. Plus, it can help you sleep better. Cough drops — or even hard candy — can stop that tickle in the back of your throat. Don’t give the drops to children younger than 4.
Cough Medicine and Children
Never give this type of medicine to children under 4 years old, because it can have serious side effects. Ask your doctor before you give any of these products to children ages 4 to 6. They’re safe after age 6. For children 1 and up, try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey to help them suppress their cough.
Will Antibiotics Stop a Cough?
Usually, no. That’s because most coughs are caused by viral infections like colds or the flu, and will get better in a week. Antibiotics only work on infections caused by bacteria. If your cough isn’t better after a week, see your doctor to make sure the cause isn’t a bacterial illness, like a sinus infection or pneumonia. If it is, you may need an antibiotic.
Coughs From Allergies and Asthma
Allergies can make you sneeze, cough, or both. An antihistamine medicine may help. Some newer ones at the drugstore won’t make you sleepy. If you’re also wheezing — where your breath sounds like whistling — you may have asthma. Go see your doctor.
If you light up, chances are you cough, especially in the morning. But it may be a sign of something more serious. Sometimes smoke irritates your airways and causes inflammation that turns into bronchitis. It can also be a warning sign of cancer. See your doctor if you are coughing up any blood or if a new cough doesn’t go away after 1 month.
What Else Causes Coughs?
If yours lasts longer than 8 weeks, a number of things could be to blame. Ongoing coughs can be caused by acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease — you may hear your doctor call it GERD. Coughs can be a side effect of ACE inhibitors, a kind of blood pressure medicine. They can be a symptom of whooping cough and even heart failure. You need medical care for all of these conditions.
When to Call the Doctor
For a long-lasting cough, call your doctor if:
- You have a deep cough with lots of mucus.
- The mucus is bloody.
- You’re wheezing, short of breath, or have a tight chest.
- You have a fever that doesn’t go away after 3 days.
- Your child has the chills or nighttime coughing fits.
- You’re still coughing after 7 days without getting better.
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It’s normal for your dog to cough every now and then. It’s part of everyday life for an animal that can sniff 4 to 6 times per second. But if your dog does it a lot or can’t seem to stop, you may have a sick pup, and they may need treatment.
What’s Behind the Cough?
Like us, dogs cough to get rid of dust, germs, and other stuff they breathe in.
Also like us, they sometimes get infections or viruses.
Dogs are social creatures that naturally sniff and slurp. This is why bacteria and viruses – including a canine form of the flu — quickly spread from dog to dog. Germs also can land on floors, furniture, food bowls, toys, and other surfaces where the next dog to come along picks them up.
A dog may be coughing because of:
- Kennel cough. Kennel cough is the common name for a deep, honking canine cough. Is your dog having bouts of hacking, followed by gagging? Think back a week or so. Were they at the groomer, dog park, obedience class, shelter, or playground? Chances are, they were around another sick dog. Kennel cough is highly contagious, but it’s not a serious problem on its own. As long as your dog is eating well and acting like themselves, they’ll probably feel better in a week or so. Your vet should make sure that they don’t need antibiotics or cough suppressants.
- Fungal infections. Yeast and other fungi can be picked up in dirt or through the air. There are prescription medications that can help.
- Heartworms. Mosquitos spread this disease. Monthly medication or an injection that lasts 6 or 12 months can prevent it. Treatment is hard on your pet, and expensive.
- Distemper. This virus spreads through the air. It’s serious but can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Heart disease. Leaky valves and other problems can weaken and thicken the heart muscle. This puts pressure on the lungs and airways. Medication, along with the right diet, and exercise approved by your vet, can bring relief.
Congestive heart failure. Fluid in the lungs can cause coughing.
Lung problems. Sometimes dogs get bronchitis or pneumonia. They also may suck in dirt, grass seeds, or food, which can lead to an infection of the airways. Antibiotics can help. In rare cases, lung cancer is the diagnosis. Your vet will help you decide if medication or surgery is the best course.
Collapse of the trachea. If the rings of cartilage on the dog’s trachea, or windpipe, weaken, it can lead to tracheal collapse. It is a progressive condition that causes a harsh, dry cough, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. It is more common in small dogs like pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers, and chihuahuas.
When to See the Vet
Make an appointment with your dog’s doctor if:
- Their cough lasts more than a week, or worsens
- They seem extra tired
- They have a fever
- They won’t eat
- They have other health problems
Your vet may ask you some questions like:
- Does your dog have trouble breathing between coughing fits?
- When do they do it? (At night? After eating? After drinking water? After exercise? When they are excited?)
- What does it sound like? (A goose? A seal?)
- Is the cough dry or moist?
- Does it sound like they are about to vomit?
- Where has your dog been lately? (In a place with other dogs? With you on a family vacation? Around a smoker?)
- Have there been any changes to their daily routine?
- Are they up-to-date on their shots, and heartworm prevention?
- When did they last take their medication?
Your vet will examine your dog and run tests to find out if the problem is due to a virus, an infection, an allergy, or a different problem. The treatment will depend on the cause.
Just like any other sick member of the family, your dog deserves a little TLC until their cough clears. Make sure they have plenty of water, healthy dog food, and rest. Steer clear if they want to be alone. Tell kids to let sleeping dogs lie, and keep them away from other dogs until they are well.
The best way to keep your dog healthy is to prevent problems before they start. Make sure your dog gets their shots every year and gets heartworm prevention as directed. Don’t let them play with other dogs who are coughing or sick.
Thesen, A. Journal of Experimental Biology, March 11, 1993.
Craven, B. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, published online Dec. 9, 2009.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
American Veterinary Medical Association.
Purdue University Cooperative Extensive Service: “Common Dog Diseases and Health Problems.”
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Borde, D., Calvert, C., Darien, B., Guerrero, J., Wall, M. The Merck Manual Pet Edition, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., 2014.
Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine Baker Institute for Animal Health: “Heart Failure in Dogs.”
National Center for Homeopathy.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine: “Best to Prevent Kennel Cough.”
The current edition of Medications and Mothers’ Milk by Thomas Hale, PhD has information on many cold medications (including specific guidance on combination products) in the Appendix. Many of the active ingredients in cold and allergy medications are listed below.
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Cough & sore throat meds
- Sore throat sprays or lozenges are generally considered safe, as are cough drops. Avoid eating excessive amounts of cough drops containing menthol. Large amounts of menthol can reduce milk supply.
- Many forms of Robitussin, Delsym and Benylin are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Always check the active ingredients, as there are many versions.
Both Advil/Motrin (Ibuprofen) and Tylenol (Acetaminophen) are considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Aleve (Naproxen) is also AAP-approved for nursing mothers, but (per Hale) should be used with caution due to its long half-life and its effect on baby’s cardiovascular system, kidneys and GI tract; short-term, infrequent or occasional use is not necessarily incompatible with breastfeeding.
Aspirin use is discouraged in children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Although the risk is probably low, it is also discouraged in nursing mothers because of the potential risk of Reye’s syndrome and bleeding.
Eye drops designed for cold/allergy symptom relief are considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Nasal sprays or gels
Nasal sprays are generally considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Decongestant nasal sprays are generally for short-term use (3-7 days) only; consult your health care provider and the package instructions for specific information.
Of the preparations available for treatment of allergic symptoms, corticosteroid nasal sprays (e.g., Flonase, Nasacort, etc.) and cromolyn sodium nasal spray (a mast cell stabilizer, e.g., Nasalcrom) are considered to be, by far, some of the most effective and safest to use in breastfeeding moms. The plasma levels of these drugs are extremely low, and thus milk levels would be even lower.
A homeopathic nasal gel, made by Zicam and containing ionic zinc gluconate, was recalled by the US FDA in 2009 because it has been associated with long lasting or permanent loss of smell (anosmia) [this is not related to lactation – see the FDA information page and Jafek BW, Linschoten MR, Murrow BW. Anosmia after intranasal zinc gluconate use. Am J Rhinol. 2004 May-Jun;18(3):137-41]. Zicam contains small amounts of zinc (Zincum Gluconicum) – 266 micrograms per squirt; in one study (Mossad 2003) the daily dosage used was 2.1 mg per day. Zinc is considered compatible with breastfeeding, particularly in small amounts (excessive amounts are not a good idea, for mom’s sake rather than baby’s). The amount of systemic absorption of nasal sprays/gels is minimal compared to oral ingestion.
Both pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are generally considered to be safe for the breastfed baby, but pseudoephedrine may reduce milk supply.
Pseudoephedrine & milk supply: Thomas Hale Ph. D., a renowned breastfeeding pharmacologist (Breastfeeding Pharmacology), notes that “breastfeeding mothers with poor or marginal milk production should be exceedingly cautious in using pseudoephedrine” and that “it is apparent that mothers in late-stage lactation may be more sensitive to pseudoephedrine and have greater loss in milk production” (Medications and Mother’s Milk, 2012 edition).
If you do take pseudoephedrine and notice a drop in milk supply (many moms do not, but research shows that it can decrease milk supply by as much as 24%), simply stop the medication and take measures to increase milk supply – the problem should resolve fairly quickly.
Be very cautious about taking pseudoephedrine on a regular basis, as it has the potential to permanently decrease your milk supply. Regular use of pseudoephedrine (120 mg/day) has occasionally been used to decrease milk production in moms with overproduction, where the usual methods to regulate milk production were not working.
Mom’s use of sedating antihistamines (including Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton products) are generally regarded to be compatible with breastfeeding, but always double-check the active ingredients as they can vary greatly. Monitor your infant for possible drowsiness if you use this type of antihistamine. The non-sedating antihistamines (below) are generally preferred and are less likely to sedate baby.
The ingredients of Claritin, Claritin-D, Clarinex, Allegra, Allegra-D, and Zyrtec are generally regarded to be compatible with breastfeeding (again – always double-check the active ingredients). Loratadine (Claritin) has been studied and the amount of loratadine that passes into breastmilk is extremely low. Claritin-D and Allegra-D have the decongestant pseudoephedrine added (see above about possible effect on milk supply). Dr. Hale has said that he prefers the non-sedating antihistamines (even though they are long-acting) over the sedating allergy medications.
Milk supply: A common concern is that the sedating antihistamines might lower milk supply but, per Dr. Thomas Hale, there is no current research supporting this belief – only some anecdotal reports. If you feel that your supply has decreased, it could simply be a byproduct of decreased nursing frequency or dehydration due to your illness.
If you feel that a medication is the cause of a sudden drop in milk supply, then stop taking (or decrease your use of) the medication – if the med is indeed the cause, then supply should increase again soon after you stop taking it. When using an antihistamine, it can be helpful to step up your fluid intake quite a bit. As with any medication, take it only as needed, and discontinue use as soon as you can.
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It’s hard being a mom to a baby who is fussy and cries a lot – that’s why we’re breaking down the symptoms to help you understand if it’s just temperament or a potential allergy.
Trusting your intuition is always a good idea, and so is seeing your pediatrician any time that you are concerned about your baby’s well-being. If you think your baby might be showing signs and symptoms of cow’s milk allergy, make an appointment to see your baby’s doctor. They can help you figure out what’s going on and support you to ensure your little one stays healthy and happy.
Cow’s milk allergy is a common childhood food allergy, and infants who have it may have different experiences after consuming the protein found in cow’s milk.
Below are some of the symptoms of cow’s milk allergy. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about any of these issues in your baby.
- Nausea or Vomiting
Babies could feel sick or might projectile vomit.
Most babies experience some degree of reflux (or spit-up). But some babies have more severe reflux problems. They may frequently spit up lots of liquid, forcefully vomit, choke or gag, arch away from the bottle or breast, seem irritable during or after feedings, or have trouble putting on weight.
Breastfed babies typically have runny, seedy poops. Poop of formula-fed infants tends to be a little thicker. If your baby has diarrhea, you will notice frequent watery, foul-smelling loose poops. Babies who have diarrhea may become dehydrated, so you should call your doctor.
- Unusual Poops
In addition to diarrhea, there could also be blood and/or mucus in their poop. It’s important to speak to your doctor if your baby experiences this issue.
Gas may make a baby’s stomach look bloated or feel hard or tense. They may pull up their legs or lock them out straight, clench their fists, and pass gas.
A baby’s poops might look like little rabbit pellets or a hard ball. Don’t judge whether a baby is constipated by how frequently they have a bowel movement. Some healthy infants may go several days without one.
- Hay Fever-like Symptoms
Sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose.
- Breathing Difficulties or Wheezing
A chronic cough, persistent runny nose and raspy, wheezy breathing should be discussed with your baby’s doctor.
Anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock) is the most serious possible allergic manifestation – it comes on quickly, affects the whole body and is potentially life-threatening. Indications include breathing difficulties, becoming faint, skin irritation and swelling – especially of the face. Fortunately, this type of allergic reaction is uncommon in infants. If you suspect anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.
A lot of fussiness and/or crying even though they aren’t hungry, tired or in need of a diaper change, could be indications of colic. Colic tends to follow a pattern of threes: crying for more than 3 hours per day (usually in the evening), for more than 3 days per week, and for more than 3 weeks. Colic often improves by the third or fourth month of age.
- Itchy Rash
Tiny red bumps on your baby’s face, scalp, hands or feet. The bumps may itch, ooze and crust over, or feel like dry, scaly skin.
Preparing to See Your Doctor
Any number of things could be causing your baby’s behaviors, which is why it’s important to see your pediatrician. To prepare for your visit:
- Start keeping a diary of any issues your baby is experiencing by using our diary.
- Note whether they flare up during or after feeds or at certain times of day.
- Keep track of symptoms over 1–2 weeks.
- Note if your baby gets upset when you try to nurse or offer a bottle, or whether they seem uninterested in eating even when you know they’re hungry.
Bring this diary to your baby’s doctor appointment to discuss your concerns together.
Cow’s Milk Allergy Management
If your doctor suspects cow’s milk allergy, they may suggest eliminating cow’s milk protein from your baby’s diet. This isn’t as daunting as it might sound.
- For Breastfed Babies
Breastfed babies can be exposed to cow’s milk protein fragments passed in breast milk when their mothers eat dairy products. Breast milk still provides the best nutrition for your baby, so you shouldn’t stop nursing. You should not remove dairy foods from your diet without speaking to your doctor.
- For Formula-Fed Babies
Switching to a formula that is hypoallergenic (meaning it has been specially designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy) may help. The majority of babies with cow’s milk allergy feel better after a switch to an extensively hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic formula like Nutramigen. In fact, some cow’s milk allergy symptoms like colic may stop within 48 hours* after a formula change. Talk to your doctor to see if this is the option for you.
As your baby gets older, your doctor may suggest you start reintroducing your child to foods made with cow’s milk. This should always be done carefully and under a doctor’s supervision. More than 75 percent of children outgrow cow’s milk allergy by the time they are five years old. So, you may not be facing a lifetime of saying no to your child’s pleas for ice cream and mac and cheese. In the meantime, there are other ways you can manage CMA and the symptoms associated.