How Can We Alleviate the Spike in Asthma?
Image courtesy of Jenn Durfey
Asthma is a debilitating, potentially life-threatening ailment that costs Americans $56 billion a year in healthcare expenses. Despite reductions in indoor smoking and outdoor air pollution, for more than 30 years, asthma rates have been on the rise. Though there is no cure for asthma, symptoms generally can be controlled by avoiding triggers.
What causes asthma?
Asthma is an inflammation of the airway, which prevents oxygen from getting through to the lungs. The same allergens, illnesses and activities that cause respiratory discomfort in healthy people, such as dust, cigarette smoke, pet hair, colds and exercise can, unsurprisingly, lead to an asthma attack.
Why the increase?
Diagnosed asthma cases increased by 4.3 million in the U.S. between 2001 and 2011, but researchers don’t know why. Theories, including one hypothesis that our modern-day air is too clean, have proven incorrect, while working theories have yet to be proven. When researchers can’t find a cause, they certainly can’t find a cure, so asthmatics must rely on prevention as much as possible.
Asthma has long been linked with allergies, but only half of asthma cases are thought to be connected to allergies. Every asthma-sufferer has his or her triggers, though, and the key to controlling your asthma is determining what triggers your asthma symptoms. If you can’t do cardio exercise without suffering an attack, for instance, you may need to switch to less strenuous forms of exercise, like Pilates or weightlifting.
Breathe clean indoor air
Even asthmatics without traditional allergen triggers won’t do well in bad air. Indoor air can be kept clean through proper filtering of the air conditioning system, and through the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers can bring welcome relief to asthma-sufferers, especially those with dust and pollen sensitivities, but make sure you change air filters as recommended or the system will not work as effectively as it could.
Breathe clean outdoor air
If you are one of the unlucky people who can’t seem to figure out what brings on an allergy attack, you may want to start looking outside your own space. You can keep your home spotless and allergen-free, try not to exert yourself, and avoid secondhand smoke, but you may find your trigger in something beyond your control.
Consider tracking your city’s air quality on AirNow, a government site that monitors air quality across the U.S. If you start to notice a correlation between your asthma attacks and high ozone or particle pollution, you can avoid going out on days with air quality alerts or know to cover your face on days when air pollution is high.
Being unable to breathe is a scary feeling, and there is no prevention as effective as staying away from those things that make it hard to breathe. Pay attention to your asthma attacks, learn your triggers, and take control of your asthma. There’s no reason to spend your life with one hand always on your inhaler.