Health Department

Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma Awareness Month

by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

April 30, 2012

Asthma is a disease that can affect people from babies to adults. In the United States, more than 22 million people are known to have asthma. This is why understanding asthma, which is also the leading medical cause of school absenteeism, and getting proper treatment, is critical for anyone with asthma.

So, what exactly is asthma? It is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways in your lungs.

No one knows what causes asthma, but we do know that it can run in families and certain things in the environment can also trigger asthma symptoms. While there is no cure for asthma, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it can be managed.

When a person has asthma, their lungs are hypersensitive to certain allergens or irritants which cause muscles around the airways to tighten and the lining of the airways (bronchial tubes) to swell.

This causes narrowing of the airways and reduces the air flow to the lungs. As the tightening and swelling increase around the bronchial tubes, symptoms such as chest tightness, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath occur. This is what we call having an “asthma attack.”

So what can someone do to keep asthma under control? Knowing your triggers can help individuals manage their asthma. Triggers are things that cause you to wheeze or get short of breath. They may be allergens such as pets, pollen, dust mites or they can be irritants like changes in weather, cleaning chemicals, exercise, or illness.

Work with your physician or a doctor who specializes in asthma and allergies to help you develop an asthma action plan. An action plan will let you know what medication you should use, when to use it and how to properly use an inhaler. The plan will also let you know what to do when symptoms flair up and a stronger treatment is required.

People who have an asthma action plan have fewer visits to the emergency room and are able to have better control of their asthma.

The Independence Health Department provides several asthma education classes. Open Airways is a free program offered to students with asthma in grades 3 through 5. We also offer an asthma education class for those who have contact with or care for children with asthma such as childcare facilities, scout leaders, and school bus drivers.

For more information, call the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.

*Information provided by the Independence Health Department and the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America