When trees and flowers start to bloom, many asthmatics start to dread the accompanying asthma attacks. Shawna Strickland, program director for the Respiratory Therapy Program in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, says almost everyone can control their asthma and stay out of the emergency room during the spring and summer by following some common sense recommendations.
“Asthma is not curable, but we can manage it,” Strickland said. “Asthma is a disease that no one ever has to die from, but unfortunately some people do.”
Part of the problem is that a lot of people don’t understand the disease, Strickland said. If people are using their emergency inhaler more than once or twice a month, then their asthma is not well controlled. Other warning signs to look for include frequent coughing and having to take a breath in the middle of a sentence. By knowing triggers, recognizing symptoms and understanding how to use their medications effectively, asthmatics can control the disease.
Strickland sees a lot of patients who use their emergency inhaler instead of the controller inhaler they use daily even when no symptoms are present. Other people stop their controller medications completely when they improve. While asthmatics should always keep their emergency inhaler with them, taking controller medications long-term and regularly can almost eliminate the need for emergency inhalers.
Having a peak flow meter, a device that measures the ability to exhale, also allows asthmatics to track their disease. Strickland also believes all asthmatics should have a personalized asthma action plan from their doctor explaining exactly what do when they have an attack. Whenever possible, Strickland believes asthmatics should followup with a general practitioner to keep track of their asthma because ignoring small problems leads to bigger problems that end in the emergency room.
While children are hard to diagnosis correctly, many are affected by respiratory diseases. Signs to look for in children include a sudden loss of energy and change of habits, especially if they go from running and playing a lot to sitting indoors. Children should also be able to count to ten without needing to take a breath.
“Asthma should never limit a child’s activity,” Strickland said.
May is Asthma Awareness Month and 2010 is the Year of the Lung.
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430