Seven Things You Should Know About Asthma

Published December 18, 2007

Updated Fall 2007 – Dread is something a lot of people feel when they are around asthma triggers such as pet dander, pollen, smog or even just running or doing a tough workout.

And that dread can sneak up at any time in many of the 20 million Americans with asthma, which shuts down your air flow after your air passages becomes inflammed.

And it occus more often in African Americans, for whom asthma is more prevalent and twice as deadly. Although African Americans represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than a third of asthma sufferers.

If you have asthma, or care for a loved one who does, here are seven basic things you need to know:

  1. There is no cure, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. “Asthma is not a disease that you can escape,” says Angel Waldron, spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Many asthma sufferers wrongly believe that if they move away from an environment with poor air quality or high pollen counts their asthma will go away, Waldron says, adding that it won't but you can control it with the proper treatment.
  2. You can inherit asthma. If one of your parents has asthma, there’s a one in three chance that you will get it. If both parents have it, there’s a higher likelihood. However, asthma is not a “Black disease.” It also can affect anyone who lives in an urban area with poor air quality, and is more prevalent in people who are prone to allergies.
  3. Asthma is more common among adult women, and male children.
  4. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease.
  5. Half of the people who have asthma are allergic to one or more things that can trigger an attack.
  6. African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma.  A number of factors, including poor air quality, mold and roaches – things more common in urban areas – as well as heredity and lack of access to proper medical care are all to blame for the higher number of Black asthma deaths. 
  7. African-American Women die twice as much from asthma as White women, according to the foundation’s research.

There are two major forms of asthma: “intermittent,” characterized by occasional flare-ups that require treatment only during an attack, and “persistent,” which requires constant care.

Persistent asthma’s systems occur more than twice a week and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Discomfort of one or more of these symptoms that keeps you from sleeping at least twice a month.

There is a wide range of treatments available for both types of asthma.

One of the treatments for persistent asthma is an inhaled steroid, which combats the inflammation that causes asthma. 

For intermittent asthma, doctors can prescribe an inhaler or other quick-relief drugs, called “rescue medicines,” such as Albuterol.

Pregnant women with persistent asthma, however, must take special precautions, because the medications used to treat it can harm the baby. But poorly controlled asthma can be dangerous to the mother and baby, experts say. (Click the “See Also” link for more on how to manage asthma when you are pregnant.)

Children should also know that asthma doesn’t have to prevent them from doing what children without the disease do, Waldron says.

“You don’t have to shelter a child with asthma,” she says. “There’s no reason to keep them out of physical activities. There are new ways to control the disease so that they don’t have to limit their activities.”

If you or a loved one suffers from the disease, the best prevention is knowledge. All asthma sufferers should consult a board-certified allergist, rather than a regular doctor, because a specialist can better determine the things that can trigger an attack, Waldron says. It is important to see a doctor regularly and follow the prescribed treatment plans.

Written by BET-Staff

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