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:
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:
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.