Health

Control Asthma Now!

Doctors can’t cure asthma, but they do understand the condition better than ever before. And new medications continue to give more effective results with fewer side effects. So why do 5,000 Americans die each year of asthma? And why has that number doubled in the past 20 years?

Researchers think the rising level of air pollution may be one reason — and here in Southern California, that’s an important consideration. Poor access to healthcare may be another. Asthma-related deaths are high in large cities, among African-Americans and among people older than 55.

The good news is that even if you have asthma, you still can lead a normal, active life — if you take a few precautions. And no matter how long you’ve had asthma, there is always more you can learn to control your disease.

Asthma Control is More than Crisis Management

People used to believe that unpredictable flare-ups of asthma were something they simply had to live with. When an attack struck, they’d dash to the emergency room, get through the crisis, then wait for the next one to come along.

However, experts now believe that a better understanding of what causes asthma attacks may help prevent or minimize their effects. Asthma episodes are caused by an underlying inflammation in your airways that smolders until the right conditions cause an eruption.

When an episode starts, the muscles around the windpipe constrict, making the opening even smaller. Next, the lining of the airways becomes more inflamed and produces mucus that clogs the already tight opening. Your chest feels tight. You wheeze. You cough. No matter how hard you try, you can’t catch your breath.

Treat the Condition and Control the Source

The good news is that you can be prepared for an asthma episode while attempting to prevent it by controlling the underlying inflammation. Here’s how:

  • See your doctor to establish a plan.
  • Consider allergy testing. Nearly all asthma sufferers have allergies that can trigger asthma episodes. It’s difficult to identify these triggers on your own, because an allergen may bring on an asthma episode many hours after initial exposure.
  • Watch for potential triggers. These often include: cold air, dirt, cigarette smoke, perfume, exercise, emotional stress, colds and flu, and household cleaning chemicals. Reduce your exposure to allergens, such as pet dander, mold and mildew, cockroaches (and their droppings) and dust mites. Ridding your home of dust and other offenders may be your greatest challenge, but it may produce the greatest relief.
  • Be aware that aspirin, other pain medications, and even eye drops can trigger an asthma episode.
  • Have a persistent cough checked. Many times a cough is the only symptom of asthma or the first symptom of an impending episode.
  • Take medications — those that treat inflammation and those that open your airways — as prescribed.

The Value of a Team Effort

If you have asthma, the quality of your life depends on many factors: your awareness of potential triggers, changes in your lifestyle and taking your medication consistently, even when you feel well.

If you want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to do it alone. Simi Valley Hospital can help. Please call our us at (805) 955-6890 to find out about our free and low-cost health classes. We can also help you find a physician; just call Referral Services at (805) 955-6900.

Note: This is for information purposes only and not intended for use in place of the advice of a physician.