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World Asthma Day Is Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Apr 18, 2012

Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disease in which the airways of the lungs constrict, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. In Peoria County 12.8% of the residents have been diagnosed with asthma and 11.5% report having at least one asthma symptom a week. Asthma is the fourth most common reason for pediatric physician office visits and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. In response to these alarming statistics and in an effort to raise public awareness of the risks faced everyday by people living with asthma, the Peoria City/County Health Department urges residents to observe World Asthma Day on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 by learning more about controlling the factors that affect people with asthma.

There is no clear cause of asthma, but many risk factors have been linked to triggering asthma attacks. Individuals are more likely to have asthma if there is a family history of the disease and there are several biological and environmental factors that can trigger an asthma attack. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, secondhand tobacco smoke, pesticides, cockroaches, bacteria, molds, animal hair, and animal dander. Allergens can also come from food and food additives. Studies have shown that common additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), can cause an asthma attack.

Symptoms of an asthma attack can include frequent coughing and wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. These symptoms may occur alone or in combination with other symptoms. A sign that asthma may be present, especially in children, is an excessive number of chest colds or episodes of pneumonia. Because these symptoms are common to other illnesses, asthma is often difficult to diagnose. Recognizing and reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms can help prevent further damage to the lungs.

Although asthma is not curable at this time, changes in lifestyle and proper medication can reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. The following are some steps you can take to help control asthma:

  • Keep your home clean.
  • Properly maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems by regularly changing filters and cleaning humidifiers. Use high efficiency particle filters to remove particles from the indoor environment.
  • Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.                                                                                  
  • Relative humidity in the home should be kept at less than 60 percent. If humidifiers are used in the home, change the water daily and clean the tank weekly to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Do not allow cigarette smoking in your home. Avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.
  • Refrain from exercising outdoors during cold weather. During windy weather or after light rain, time outdoors should be limited because pollen counts may be high.
  • Develop an asthma action plan to help prevent symptoms and to recognize them if they occur and to know what medicine to take and when to take it.

For more information about World Asthma Day or other important public health issues, call Peoria City/County Health Department at (309)679-6131 or visit our website at www.pcchd.org.

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