Asthma is a lung disease. It causes people to wheeze, cough, be short of breath, and sometimes even die. People with\ asthma can suffer from frequent periods of difficulty breathing called "asthma attacks." During an attack, the airways swell, the muscles around them tighten, and the airways produce thick yellow mucous. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma (1 in 15 Americans), and 62% of asthma cases are "allergic-asthma." The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.
- Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children.
- Asthma is more common among adult women than adult men.
- Asthma is more common among male children than female children.
- Asthma is more common among children (7 to 10%) than adults (3 to 5%).
- Nearly 5 million asthma sufferers are under age 18. It is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than one child in 20.
- Asthma is slightly more prevalent among African Americans than Caucasians.
Asthma is not contagious, but it does run in families, so if parents have asthma, their children are more likely to have it, too. Children, particularly those living in urban areas and crowded or unclean conditions, are especially at risk for developing asthma. African-American children living in low-income families tend to have more severe asthma and are at greater risk of death.
What causes an attack?Each person is different, but many things (called "asthma triggers") can cause asthma attacks. These can be found both outdoors and indoors and include:
- Cold weather
- Dust and dust mites
Pet dander (skin flakes)
What can you do?Because there is no cure for asthma, it is most important to work on preventing attacks. There are three major categories of prevention:
Keep a clean home
- Make sure that your home is free of dust, mold, smoke, and other potential triggers.
- Vacuum often-HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filters remove dust best.
- Keep foods stored in tightly sealed containers to avoid attracting cockroaches and rodents by keeping food in tightly sealed containers.
- Clear crumbs, drips, spills, and dirty dishes immediately.
- Identify and quickly fix water leaks in your home.
Keep people with asthma away from dust, dust mites, and smoke
- Use zippered "allergen resistant" mattress and pillow covers to keep dust mites out of sleeping spaces.
- Keep pets outdoors or away from sleeping areas; clear hairs from carpets and furniture.
- Quit smoking, or smoke only outside your home and car. Always keep tobacco smoke away from children.
- Change bed sheets often.
- Keep people with asthma out of a room while vacuuming or dusting.
Get medical advice and follow the doctor's instructions
- Get medical attention for breathing problems.
- Get emergency medical care for bad attacks of shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Take all prescribed medication, either to prevent attacks or to lessen the symptoms.
- Find out what allergies you have so you can avoid these potential asthma trigger.