It’s that time of year when some people truly enjoy the smell of spring and summer. However, for others it is an ongoing battle of trying to keep their asthma and seasonal allergies under control while staying out of the doctor’s office.
Asthma is a disease of the lung in which allergens — such as pollen, dust and pet dander — can cause an individual’s airways to become inflamed and constrict. This will cause patients to experience uncontrolled coughing, wheezing and difficulty with breathing. Other common causes of an asthma attack are exercise, viral illness, certain chemical exposure and even stress.
Although asthma is easily treated, on a daily basis in the United States there are 4,800 emergency room visits and 1,250 hospital admissions involving the disease, and 15 pediatric asthma-related deaths.
As a physician, I am often asked, “How can I improve the control of my asthma?” One of the most important things a patient with asthma can do is have regular follow-up appointments with their physician. Patients should also learn to listen to their bodies and know what triggers their asthma attacks.
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Make sure that you are educated about which inhalers to use in the event of an asthma attack. Not knowing this information can truly mean the difference between life and death.
Short-acting albuterol rescue inhalers should be the first inhaler used in the event of the onset of an asthma attack and not a controller inhaler or steroid inhaler. Steroid inhalers are maintenance inhalers used to help control airway inflammation over a period time and thus are not recommended for rescue and emergency use.
There are also oral medication options such as Singulair (montelukast) that can also help decrease airway inflammation. Your physician can determine which medications are appropriate for you.
A person whose asthma attack is not relieved with the short-acting albuterol inhaler or with repeat treatments should be seen in an emergency room immediately. The best defense for asthma is a proactive patient. Make sure that you have a regular primary care physician who is comfortable with managing your asthma.
Patients should see their doctor at least every 4-6 months for maintenance of their asthma.
Dr. Jai Gilliam is a pediatrician and an internal medicine specialist practicing at Baptist Health Medical Group Internal Medicine & Pediatrics at Brannon Crossing in Nicholasville.