Patient Education Key As Asthma Continues To Increase Across the Nation

Knowing triggers and how to avoid them is an important step in controlling the disease

DAYTON, Ohio (March 12, 2013) – Asthma is a serious lung condition that has a significant impact on thousands of people each and every day. Nearly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma and at least 44,000 of them will experience an asthma attack today, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows airways, making it difficult for someone to breath or swallow. An asthma attack – characterized by a feeling of tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing – can be set off by any number of triggers including cold air, physical activity, mold, dust and even heartburn. Asthma cannot be cured, but it may be possible for sufferers to avoid or lessen the severity of asthma attacks, according to Grenetta Ritenour, CNP, at Jamestown Family Medicine, a Premier HealthNet practice.

“It’s important to know your triggers and to avoid exposure to them as much as possible,” Ritenour said. “Also, to see your family medical provider and discuss with them what symptoms you are having and to stay on your medication regimen.”  

The number of people with asthma continues to grow. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 12 people in the United States had asthma in 2009 compared with one in 14 in 2001. Despite its growth, many individuals remain unaware of how to best control their condition or prevent an attack. A study released by the CDC in 2008 found that less than half of people with asthma reported being taught how to avoid triggers. It also found that nearly half of adults who were taught how to avoid triggers did not follow most of the advice they were given.

An asthma trigger is a thing, activity or condition that makes asthma worse. When an asthma sufferer comes into contact with a trigger it can cause a sudden worsening of symptoms which is often called an asthma attack, episode or flare-up. According to The American Lung Association (ALA), the most common triggers are medical conditions (like a cold or the flu), food and medicine, smoke, weather, air pollution, pollen, animals, pests, mold, exercise, emotions and even strong odors. Most of these triggers can be avoided by making simple lifestyle changes. For example, individuals who are sensitive to odors can choose fragrance-free soaps and cleaning detergents while those sensitive to mold can clean up visible mold in the home and take showers while using exhaust fans, according to the ALA.

“Knowing your trigger and avoiding it is an important step in controlling the disease, but is just one part of an entire plan to keep asthma attacks at bay,” Ritenour said. She encourages patients to diligently take their medication and to monitor themselves with a peak flow meter every day. A peak flow meter measures how well air is moving out of the lungs and can help someone recognize early changes that may be signs of worsening asthma.

“A meter can give you a reading that day to help tell you how close you are to your normal range and help you understand when you may have difficulty with your asthma,” said Ritenour. “It is important to develop a treatment plan when your lung volumes are not at what your normal level should be.”

Today in America, about 36,000 children will miss school and 27,000 adults will miss work due to asthma, according to the AAFA. If you or someone you love is one of those struggling with the disease there is hope with the support and guidance of a primary care physician.

Learn more about asthma.


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