How deadly is this disease?
African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than whites.
An African American child is 7 times more likely to die from asthma than non-Hispanic white children.
Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often begins in childhood. Of the more than 22 million people in America known to have asthma, 1 in 4 is a child.
What is asthma?
People with asthma have inflamed airways which become swollen and clogged by “triggers” which do not bother non-asthma sufferers.
Some of the most common asthma triggers include:
Allergens: Dust mites, pollens, molds, pet dander, and even cockroach droppings are examples of allergens you breathe. You might also ingest allergens such as shellfish, nuts, certain berrys, and other foods.
Inhaled irritants: Cigarette and marijuana smoke, wood fires, or charcoal grills. Household sprays, paint, gasoline, perfumes, and scented soaps can all trigger an attack for some asthmatics. Cigarette smoke is an extremely common trigger of asthma symptoms for all ages.
Respiratory infections: Colds, flu, sore throats, and sinus infections are the number one asthma triggers in children.
Exercise: Activities that make you breathe harder can trigger an asthma attack. Other physical activities that can trigger an attack are dancing, sex, laughing, crying, holding one’s breath, and hyperventilating (rapid, shallow breathing).
Strong emotions: Anger, fear, distress or excitement cause breathing changes that can cause airways to swell.
What causes asthma?
It is unclear what causes asthma, but the prevailing theories are that it can be acquired genetically, and can be a result of exposure to inhaled pollutants. Children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke are at increased risk .
What are the symptoms?
• Difficulty breathing (described as trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton)
• Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
• Coughing that won’t stop
• Very rapid breathing
• Chest pain or pressure
• Tightened neck and chest muscles, called retractions
• Difficulty talking
• Feelings of anxiety or panic
• Pale, and/or sweaty face
• Blue lips or fingernails
How can I avoid developing asthma?
Because the causes of asthma are not fully understood, there is no proven means of completely avoiding it. Some believe a healthy diet and limited exposure to air pollution are key to avoiding asthma.
For those who have the disease, asthma episodes can be avoided by being aware of and avoiding your triggers, and following a plan worked out between you and your doctor for monitoring and controlling your asthma symptoms.