A National Center for Health Statistics Factsheet states1 the following facts about Asthma (2014) in the United States:
- Number of adults who currently have asthma: 17.7 million
- Percent of adults who currently have asthma: 7.4%
- Number of children who currently have asthma: 6.3 million
- Percent of children who currently have asthma: 8.6%
- Percent of visits to office-based physician with asthma indicated on the medical record: 6.5%
- Number of visits to emergency departments with asthma as primary diagnosis: 1.6 million
- Number of deaths: 3,651
Asthma2 is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. You must also remove the triggers in your environment that can make your asthma worse.
In most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to cure it. We know that if someone in your family has asthma, you are more likely to have it.
Black Americans suffer greatly from Asthma
Not all things are equal when it comes to the burden of asthma. Consider these quick facts3 :
- The rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma are both 3 times higher among African Americans than among whites.
- Compared to white children, asthma prevalence is higher in children who are Puerto Rican (2.4 times), African American (1.6 times), and American Indian/Alaska Native (1.3 times).
- Women account for nearly two-thirds of all deaths due to asthma in the United States.
- The percentage of people with asthma taking daily medicine to control asthma is lower among Hispanics (23.2%) and African Americans (25.1%) than among Whites (35.1%).
Asthma is more common and more severe among children; women; low-income, inner-city residents; and African American and Puerto Rican communities. In general, these disadvantaged and at-risk populations experience above-average rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths that are much higher than differences in asthma prevalence would suggest.
The reasons for these disparities are complex, but cannot be attributed to genetic differences alone. Economic, social, and cultural factors—ranging from lack of access to quality health care to differences in health beliefs between patients and their doctors—add to the greater asthma burden among these groups. Individuals within disadvantaged populations also may face substandard housing and work conditions that place them at higher risk for frequent and prolonged exposure to environmental allergens and irritants that worsen asthma.
Jay Harold has seen the problems asthma causes for its sufferers. This post was written to provide useful information so you can make informed medical decisions.
How Can You Tell if You Have Asthma?
It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.
During a checkup, the doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will then ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of the year. The doctor will then also ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and if you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.
The doctor will also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working. The doctor will use a computer with a mouthpiece to test how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath. The spirometer can measure airflow before and after you use asthma medicine.
What Is an Asthma Attack?
An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. The attack happens in your body’s airways, which are the paths that carry air to your lungs. As the air moves through your lungs, the airways become smaller, like the branches of a tree are smaller than the tree trunk. During an asthma attack, the sides of the airways in your lungs swell, and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and out of your lungs, and mucous that your body makes clogs up the airways even more.
You can control your asthma by knowing the warning signs of an asthma attack, staying away from things that cause an attack, and following your doctor’s advice. When you control your asthma:
- you won’t have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing,
- you’ll sleep better,
- you won’t miss work or school,
- you can take part in all physical activities, and
- you won’t have to go to the hospital.
What Causes an Asthma Attack?
An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.” Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, and smoke from burning wood or grass.
How Is Asthma Treated?
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.
Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.
You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.
Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines.
Remember – you can control your asthma. With your healthcare provider’s help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.
If you have asthma, an asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.” Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common triggers are:
Common Asthma Triggers4
Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma. If you have asthma and you smoke, quit smoking.
“Secondhand smoke” is smoke created by a smoker and breathed in by a second person. Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. If you have asthma, people should never smoke near you, in your home, in your car, or wherever you may spend a lot of time.
Dust mites are tiny bugs that are in almost every home. If you have asthma, dust mites can trigger an asthma attack. To prevent attacks, use mattress covers and pillowcase covers to make a barrier between dust mites and yourself. Don’t use down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters. Remove stuffed animals and clutter from your bedroom. Wash your bedding on the hottest water setting.
Outdoor Air Pollution
Outdoor air pollution can trigger an asthma attack. This pollution can come from factories, cars, and other sources. Pay attention to air quality forecasts on radio, television, and the Internet and check your newspaper to plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be low.
Cockroaches and their droppings can trigger an asthma attack. Get rid of cockroaches in your home by removing as many water and food sources as you can. Cockroaches are often found where food is eaten, and crumbs are left behind. At least every 2 to 3 days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches. Use roach traps or gels to cut down on the number of cockroaches in your home.
Furry pets can trigger an asthma attack. If you think a furry pet may be causing attacks, you may want to find the pet another home. If you can’t or don’t want to find a new home for the pet, keep it out of the person with asthma’s bedroom.
Bathe pets every week and keep them outside as much as you can. People with asthma are not allergic to their pet’s fur, so trimming the pet’s fur will not help your asthma. If you have a furry pet, vacuum often. If your floors have a hard surface, such as wood or tile, damp mop them every week.
Breathing in mold can trigger an asthma attack. Get rid of mold in your home to help control your attacks. Humidity, the amount of moisture in the air, can make mold grow. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the humidity level low. Get a small tool called a hygrometer to check humidity levels and keep them as low as you can—no higher than 50%. Humidity levels change over the course of a day, so check the humidity levels more than once a day. Fix water leaks, which let mold grow behind walls and under floors.
Smoke From Burning Wood or Grass
Smoke from burning wood or other plants is made up of a mix of harmful gasses and small particles. Breathing in too much of this smoke can cause an asthma attack. If you can, avoid burning wood in your home. If a wildfire is causing poor air quality in your area, pay attention to air quality forecasts on radio, television, and the Internet and check your newspaper to plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be low.
Infections linked to influenza (flu), colds, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can trigger an asthma attack. Sinus infections, allergies, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux can also trigger attacks.
Physical exercise; some medicines; inclement weather, such as thunderstorms or high humidity; breathing in cold, dry air; and some foods, food additives, and fragrances can also trigger an asthma attack.
Strong emotions can lead to very fast breathing, called hyperventilation, that can also cause an asthma attack.
Talk to Your Doctor about Asthma
You must stay engaged with your doctor in controlling asthma. Together with other healthcare professionals, you can reduce asthma-related health problems. The Centers for Disease Control has created Asthma Action Plans5 to help control and preventing asthma attacks.
Jay Harold is always looking out for your health and wealth. Please take this advice of Muhammad Ali and give back to others. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Muhammad Ali