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With asthma rates on the rise, here's how to manage symptoms

May 04, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey
  • Keeping furry animals (and their dander) out of the house, or at least away from asthma sufferers, is one way to keep symptoms from flaring up.
Keeping furry animals (and their dander) out of the house, or at least away… (Wikimedia Commons )

The rise in asthma rates has researchers a bit baffled. But while they focus on figuring out the reason, people with asthma have more practical concerns: preventing and controlling asthma attacks.

Data released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an increase in the number of Americans with asthma despite better air quality and a marked decline in smoking rates, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

Doctors don't know how to prevent asthma because it's not clear what causes the disease — it may be caused partly by genetics and partly by exposure to irritants such as pollution and tobacco smoke. And there isn't a cure either.

But doctors know a lot about preventing asthma attacks — unpleasant, sometimes life-threatening bouts of coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

One of the first steps is to clean the house of common triggers, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The CDC offers this list:

--Second-hand tobacco smoke

--Dust mites

--Air pollution (check how clean your ZIP Code is)

--Cockroaches

--Pets

--Mold

--The flu (get a flu shot annually, the CDC advises)

--Stress

But that's just for starters. People with asthma also need an action plan for controlling their disease, long term. That includes, among other things, detailed instructions on when to use medication and how much to use. This can prevent asthma attacks and help the ones that do occur from getting worse.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers sample plans.

Now consider these facts from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

Every day in the U.S.:

--40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.

--30,000 people have an asthma attack.

--5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.

--1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.

--11 people die from asthma.

Scientists will be sorting out what causes asthma and why more people are getting the disease, but the new report stresses the need for asthma sufferers to control the condition.

healthkey@tribune.com

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