Asthma: Not Just an Issue for Children

Primary Care Physicians Remind Adults of Best Practices for Preventing Asthma Attacks

DAYTON, Ohio (February 13, 2012) – Many people view asthma as a health concern for only children. While most asthma sufferers are diagnosed early in life, the need to promote good respiratory health continues well into adulthood. As spring approaches, Premier HealthNet, one of the largest primary care networks in Southwest Ohio, wants to remind the community to take the necessary preventive measures since asthma and allergy triggers are at an all-time high.

Asthma is defined as an inflammation of the air passages that can temporarily narrow the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), an estimated 1 in 15 Americans suffer from asthma and, for adults, it’s the fourth leading cause of work absenteeism.

“People sometimes forget that asthma is one of those things that doesn’t necessarily go away after childhood,” said Dr. Melinda Ruff of Centerville Family Medicine, a part of the Premier HealthNet network. “Whether it’s mild asthma or a more severe case, management of the disease and prevention of asthma attacks is key.”

Asthma does have a genetic component and while many people develop asthma early in life, asthma symptoms can appear at any time. Those who are diagnosed with asthma as adults are said to have adult onset asthma. Although the development of the asthma may not be preventable, individuals living with the disease should avoid triggers that can cause an asthma attack. Some of these potential triggers include allergens, air irritants (like tobacco smoke) and sudden changes in weather.

Seasonal allergies also can have a significant impact on asthma sufferers.

“Allergies can trigger an asthma attack, so it’s important that people manage their symptoms, especially during peak allergy seasons,” said Dr. Ruff. “Taking over-the-counter allergy medication, avoiding allergens and not smoking are just a few best practices for people with asthma who also suffer from seasonal allergies.”

Symptoms of an asthma attack are very distinct and usually include shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing due to narrowing or obstruction of the airways from swelling and inflammation, mucous clogging the airway or bronchospasms, which are tightening of muscles around the airway. Physicians prescribe long-term controllers as well as short-term relievers to treat asthma effectively. Long-term controllers are medicines that are taken daily while short-term relievers are intended to help ease symptoms specifically during an asthma attack and often times come in the form of an inhaler or pill. Ultimately, though, treatment is dependent upon the severity of a patient’s asthma. Individuals should visit their primary care physician with questions and concerns regarding asthma and allergy symptoms.

“If an individual thinks he or she might have adult onset asthma, I recommend keeping a diary of symptoms to discuss with a primary care physician,” said Dr. Ruff. “Primary care physicians not only work closely with their patients, but can also work with specialists like allergists to help individuals manage their asthma effectively.”

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