Healthy Habits

Ask the Expert: Asthma Awareness Month


May is Asthma Awareness month, a public awareness initiative to educate others on the impact of asthma and allergies, as well as the importance of diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. Where you live, work, learn, and play can all affect your asthma, but the right steps can help you breathe easier.

Why Does it Matter?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 24.7 million people have asthma, including 5.5 million children. Each year, asthma accounts for more than 439,000 hospitalizations, 1.7 million emergency department visits, and 13.8 million missed school days. Costs are high, and it can be scary seeing a loved one experience an asthma attack.

What Can I Do?

Work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan. Review the CDC’s action plan template to get started.

Know what type of medication is best for you or your loved one. Asthma medications come in two types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you find yourself using your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.

Know your asthma triggers. Triggers are things that make your asthma symptoms or attacks worse. Not everyone with asthma experiences the same triggers, so it is important to recognize what initiates your symptoms. Common triggers include:

  • Secondhand smoke: avoid places where people smoke.
  • Dust mites: keep humidity levels low in your home. Wash and dry your sheets regularly.
  • Mold: use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep the air dry in your home.
  • Air pollution: be aware of conditions that may trigger your asthma like weather, air quality, pollen count, or wildfires. Try to plan outdoor activities when air quality is the best.
  • Pets: keep pets out of your bedroom. Ask a family member to wash your pet regularly and use an air purifier.
  • Sprays, scents, or disinfectants: avoid perfume, paint, hairspray, and talcum powder. Try to stay away when cleaners or disinfectants are being used and right after their use.

Know how to properly use an inhaler. If a loved one has asthma, especially a child, it may be helpful to review these videos.

If your child has asthma, make sure their teachers or other caretakers know when and how to help during symptoms or attacks. Prepare your child by teaching them what to do.


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