If you or someone close to you suffers from asthma, you know that it can be a severe problem. Asthma is a common chronic condition in the United States, affecting over 25 million people. It can cause difficulty breathing, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is responsible for more than 10 million doctor visits yearly. Let’s look at some of the issues surrounding asthma in the US today.
Asthma Rates Rising
The rate of asthma diagnosis has been rising steadily since 1980. In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 1 in 12 people had asthma in 2009-2010 compared to 1 in 14 people just five years earlier. Researchers believe that this increase could be due to environmental factors such as air pollution and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Here are some of the most common risk factors associated with asthma:
One of the most significant risk factors for developing asthma is genetics. If you have a family history of asthma, it increases your chances of having it as well. This is because specific genetic markers make some people more susceptible to developing asthma than others. Because this factor cannot be changed or controlled, it’s essential to know if you have a family history and when to seek medical help if symptoms develop.
The environment you live in can also play an essential role in determining your risk for developing asthma. Exposure to air pollutants such as dust, smoke, and chemical fumes can trigger asthma symptoms or exacerbate existing conditions. Also, living in high-altitude areas with lower oxygen levels has been linked to higher asthma prevalence rates in some studies. Living in damp or moldy environments can also be problematic for those with asthma since mold spores can act as irritants and trigger asthmatic episodes.
Allergens—like pollen, pet dander, cockroaches, and dust mites—are known triggers of asthmatic episodes, so if you live with any type of allergen present in your home or environment, your risk of developing an asthmatic attack increases significantly. Allergy testing can help determine which allergens are causing reactions so that they can be removed from your environment or managed through medication or other treatments if possible. Also, if you have some dirty upholstery, keep them clean. An upholstery cleaning service can clean various fabrics in your home the right way. They can also ensure that your allergens won’t return to these upholsteries for a while.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are considered irritants or allergens. If you live with a smoker or frequently visit places where smoking is allowed, essential want to be aware that you may be at an increased risk of experiencing asthma symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to avoid secondhand smoke and limit your time in smoky environments if you suffer from asthma.
These risk factors are some of the reasons why asthma is so common in the US today. However, proper medical care and lifestyle changes can manage your condition and reduce the frequency of asthma-related symptoms.
Inequitable Treatment for Minorities
Although anyone can develop asthma, certain groups are disproportionately affected by the disease. Minority populations are especially vulnerable; African Americans are almost three times more likely than whites to suffer from severe asthma attacks requiring hospitalization or an emergency room visit. This unequal treatment is often attributed to a lack of access to proper medical care and medications due to financial constraints or other social factors.
Living with Asthma
Living with asthma can be difficult for both sufferers and their families. Those with moderate-to-severe cases may have difficulty participating in activities that require physical exertion, like sports or running around with friends and family members, without experiencing shortness of breath or other symptoms associated with their condition. Many also have trouble sleeping due to nighttime coughing or wheezing episodes caused by their asthma. Thankfully, there are now new treatments for tackling asthma. Here are two of the most famous.
When it comes to controlling asthma, immunotherapy is one of the most effective methods. Through allergen desensitization, your body’s immune system can be trained to tolerate allergens like mold and pet dander instead of attacking them as foreign substances. This treatment must be performed under the guidance of an allergist and may require several sessions over a long period.
Short-acting bronchodilators are the most common medications prescribed for those with flare-up episodes to open up the airways and relieve symptoms. Inhalers are often used for this purpose and can be taken as needed when asthma symptoms begin to present themselves. These medications are fast-acting and help keep the airways clear when allergens or toxic irritants have triggered symptoms. Longer-term use of bronchodilators may also be recommended if asthma is diagnosed as a chronic condition.
While living with asthma can undoubtedly be challenging, more tools and resources are available now than ever. These include medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and family and friends’ support. As a result, you can manage your condition to lead a healthy and fulfilling life with the right approach and decrease your chances of getting this chronic disease.