Did you know more than 25 million people in America have asthma -- including nearly seven million kids? Asthma has become common in the United States, but we need to make sure it never becomes commonplace or its burden easily accepted. May is Asthma Awareness Month, and with asthma so prevalent, it's time to move beyond being aware to being prepared. For the millions who have asthma, a serious and sometimes deadly health threat, it's time to be prepared by learning better ways to take control of their asthma, and lead an active, healthy life.
Asthma affects one in 12 Americans, and more women than men. Of the nearly seven million children with asthma, close to 60 percent suffered at least one asthma attack last year. I don't use the term "suffer" lightly. An asthma attack can be a terrifying experience, especially for a child, where the airways constrict or become clogged with mucus, making each breath a frightening struggle. In 2010, for example, asthma attacks resulted in 2.1 million emergency room visits. Asthma attacks like these take the lives of several thousand Americans each year. This is especially tragic, because even one death is too many, when it comes to a manageable condition like asthma.
Here's how to take control:
- Understand your asthma. Take some time to learn more about asthma. One way is to take the American Lung Association's Asthma Basics course, a self-paced online learning module for anyone who wants to learn more about asthma, its symptoms and triggers, types of medications and better asthma management.
- Build your asthma support team. You don't have to go it alone! Work with an asthma care provider to assess and monitor asthma symptoms and management skills. Tell your family members and co-workers about asthma, and ways they can support you to reduce exposure to the things that trigger your symptoms. This could include making sure no one smokes in the home, using fragrance-free cleaning products or not wearing perfume.
- Reduce your exposure to asthma triggers. It's important for people with asthma to understand the things that cause their symptoms (asthma triggers), and make a plan to avoid or limit exposure to these asthma triggers. Where you live, work, learn and play can be filled with asthma triggers. Asthma and allergies often go hand-in-hand. People with asthma who experience frequent or seasonal symptoms that are not controlled by asthma medicines, should talk to their healthcare provider about a simple blood or skin scratch test to determine what they're allergic to that could be an asthma trigger.
- Take asthma medicines. Asthma medicines are important in the daily self-management of asthma. Understanding asthma medicines are key to taking control of the disease. Take some time to learn about what each medicine does to treat your asthma and the technique to get the most out of your medicine.
- Use tools for daily self-management. Work with your asthma care provider to develop an asthma action plan, a guide to managing asthma daily as well as the actions to take when you begin to get symptoms. Also, make a plan to avoid or reduce your exposure to your personal asthma triggers.
At the American Lung Association, we care about people with asthma. That's why we fight to protect funding for asthma research programs at the National Institutes of Health and operate our own Airways Clinical Research Centers, the largest not-for-profit asthma research network. We care about lung health, and want to help you and your loved ones learn better ways to take control of asthma and literally, breathe easier.
Here are just some of our resources that we know can help:
- Asthma Basics
- Asthma Action Plans
- Your Child's Asthma: A Parent's Guide to Better Breathing
- Guide to Controlling Asthma at Work
- Guide to Safe & Healthy Workplaces
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