May Is National Asthma Awareness Month
Good Time To Learn About Asthma, Its Prevention & Treatment
Dr. Albert Polito, Director, The Lung Center at Mercy
One in 12 Americans has asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing, the latter usually at night or in the early morning.
Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma, and nearly a third of these are children.
May is national Asthma Awareness Month, a great time to learn more about this disease, how to prevent it and how to treat it. It’s important to work with your doctor to treat conditions that can interfere with asthma management. Be sure to avoid things that can trigger your asthma, but don’t avoid physical activity which is important for a healthy lifestyle.
With your doctor’s help, develop an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan gives guidance on taking your medicines properly, avoiding asthma triggers (except physical activity), tracking your level of asthma control, responding to worsening symptoms, and seeking emergency care when needed.
Long-term asthma sufferers generally need to take certain medications daily to prevent symptoms. The most effective long-term medicines reduce airway inflammation, stopping symptoms before they start (i.e. not for quick symptom relief). Inhaled corticosteroids are the preferred medicine for long-term control of asthma. They're the most effective option for long-term relief of the inflammation and swelling that makes your airways sensitive to certain inhaled substances.
Reducing inflammation helps prevent the chain reaction that causes asthma symptoms. Most people who take these medicines daily find they greatly reduce the severity of symptoms and how often they occur.
Children with asthma should live in homes that are mold- and dust-free, but sometimes cleaning supplies can actually exacerbate asthma. When it's time to spring clean, families need to keep in mind that cleaners with strong odors or chemicals can trigger an asthma episode. Pregnant women who have chronic asthma should be aware that there may be consequences for their baby.
"We see a ton of women with asthma," said Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Medical Center. According to Dr. Atlas, women with chronic asthma are at an increased risk of complications with the baby. The problems can include diseases of the nervous system and respiratory system.
Mercy pulmonologist Dr. Albert Polito, Director, The Lung Center at Mercy, noted that asthmatic mothers-to-be should know that the benefits of the medication typically outweigh any risk.
"Asthmatics can have low oxygen levels that can damage the baby in utero. It has been shown time and time again in many, many studies that the benefits of the medications we use to control asthma and keep it from flaring up during the pregnancy far outweigh any risk associated with the medications," Dr. Polito said.
Mercy provides treatment for asthma and related respiratory conditions.
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.