Asthma as an Environmental Health Concern

asthma words

Basics
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes the airways of the lungs to narrow or become blocked, thus making it hard for the individual to breathe. Pollutants found in the air trigger asthma. Asthma is a common lung disease in children and can be easily managed using medication provided by a physician.

What are the symptoms?
Asthma symptoms can include: 
  •  Wheezing 
  •  Coughing 
  •  Shortness of breath 
  •  Chest tightness 
Asthma symptoms can be worse: 
  • At night 
  • When you are pregnant 
  • When you are taking certain medications 
Should you have asthma symptoms, but lack a diagnosis, it is important to talk to your physician. It is also important to let a physician know if you symptoms disrupt your daily life or if they increase.

How is asthma managed?
After you have been diagnosed by a physician, they will talk to you about setting up a plan to manage you asthma. This plan is called an Asthma Action Plan and it is important because it identifies what triggers your asthma and helps in monitoring your asthma attacks. You can help reduce asthma symptoms by not going outside during high pollution days and avoiding your known asthma triggers. If you are prescribed an inhaler, it is important to carry it with you at all times in case an attack should occur. To help reduce asthma symptoms, it is important to take all medications according to your physician's orders. Talk to your physician about a healthy diet and exercise routine that will help reduce your symptoms. If you are traveling, make sure you have all of your medication and a copy of your asthma action plan in case of an attack.

What are the treatment options?
inhalerYour physician determines a treatment plan depending on symptoms and severity of the asthma. It is important to stay away from your asthma triggers and use your prescribed medication. Not everyone has the same medicine for his or her asthma; the type that is prescribed to you depends on your physician's treatment for you. Some of the medicines are inhaled while others can be taken as a pill. 

There are two types of medicines, quick-relief and long-term control. To control asthma symptoms you use your quick-relief medicines (such as an inhaler). If you feel an increase in the need for quick-relief medicines, you should visit your physician to determine if you need to get a different medicine. Although they don't help while you are having an attack, long-term medicines help reduce the severity and number of asthma attacks. Asthma medicines can have side effects and you should talk to your physician about that. It is important to take your medication as prescribed and to continue using your long-term control medicine even when you do not have symptoms.

Healthy Homes 
Healthy Homes is a program designed by Washington County Public Health to help improve asthma outcomes for children. For more information please visit their Web page.