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Controlling the Airways
Asthma sufferers can breathe easier thanks to a few helpful hints.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood institute (NHLBI), 22 million Americans suffer from asthma. When airways narrow and swell, less oxygen is able to get to the lungs, causing chest tightness and shortness of breath. Thick, sticky mucus can also accumulate, further blocking airways and triggering wheezing and coughing. Sometimes asthma symptoms are mild; however, they can also be fatal. While a cure hasn’t been found yet, there are many ways to help prevent and relieve asthma flare-ups:

1.   Know your triggers. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic agree it’s not necessarily clear why some people have asthma; however, a combination of genetic and environmental factors is most likely to blame. And while you can’t change your gene pool, you can avoid asthma irritants. Air pollutants, for example, can upset your airways. Cigarette smoke naturally falls under this category, and can be an asthma sufferer’s worst nightmare. Perhaps seemingly less harmless is your pet, but unfortunately, animal dander ranks right up there with pollen, mold and dust mites as a trigger.

The Mayo Clinic also notes emotional stress, food preservatives and even cockroaches as things to avoid if you’re prone to asthma attacks. Although some irritants are harder to dodge – like cold air and physical activity – knowing what might set off your symptoms can help prevent an attack.

2.   Create an asthma action plan. Check out www.nhlbi.nih.gov where the NHLBI can help you set up an asthma action plan. First, talk to your doctor about what type of treatment is best for you including long-term control vs. quick-relief medications. Because asthma can improve or worsen throughout your life, depending on factors such as age and lifestyle, you’ll need to be your doctor’s right-hand man when determining a treatment plan. The NHLBI recommends that adults and kids as young as 10 should keep a journal noting how often their asthma symptoms strike, as well as where and when. Frequency of inhaler use or incidents of asthma attacks should also be recorded so your doctor can give you the best care possible.

3.   Connect. Ongoing education and support are very valuable for those battling asthma. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has an entire website dedicated to their Support Community where patients, friends and medical experts can discuss new forms of treatment, tips for relief and more. You can upload entire journal entries or simply post a question at www.inspire.com/groups/asthma-and-allergy-foundation-of-america/. At AAFA’s main website, www.asthmacapitals.com, you’ll find news reports, information on clinical trials and support groups in your area. Parents of children with asthma will especially appreciate the friendly online atmosphere.

Living with asthma doesn’t mean finding a cure, but rather finding control. Treat your condition like a long-term research project, and communicate with your doctor about what works and what doesn’t. You may never be able to toss your inhaler, yet knowing how you can try to prevent using it calls for a big sigh of relief!

For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021.


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