TRENTON — May is Asthma Awareness Month and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health care groups across the nation to educate people about the symptoms, treatments and costs of the disease.
“Asthma affects people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Mary O’Dowd, Acting Commissioner NJDHSS. “While the disease has no cure, asthma can be controlled so that people are able to live active and healthy lives.”
According to NJDHSS there are approximately 511,000 adults and 188,000 children with asthma. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, 108 asthma deaths were reported. In 2009, there were 16,608 asthma hospitalizations among New Jersey residents.
The CDC recently reported that people diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009. In 2009, nearly 1 in 12 Americans were diagnosed with asthma. In addition to increased diagnoses, asthma costs grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007.
A chronic illness, asthma is characterized by ongoing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing in individuals suffering from the illness. In severe cases, a person with asthma can suffer an “asthma attack,” a severe bout of coughing and shortness of breath caused when pathways that carry air to the lungs become restricted. Asthma attacks are triggered by environmental factors such as dust, tobacco smoke, automobile emissions, cockroach droppings, pet dander and mold. Non-environmental factors such as getting the cold or flu, strenuous exercise, and allergies can also play a role in triggering an attack.
Asthma is a disease that affects over 9 million children in the United States and managing the illness is challenging for children and their families. With smaller air pathways, asthma symptoms can prove more serious in children. That is why it is especially important for parents of children with asthma to avoid smoking because it could trigger an attack. If a parent does smoke it should only be outdoors and not in cars. Parents should be sure that schools their child attends have asthma action plans in place and quick-relief inhalers readily available.
Fortunately, there are effective medications to treat the condition. These medications fall into two categories: Those that relieve short-term symptoms and those that help patients better manage their disease in the long-term. Quick-relief medicines are designed to manage the onset of asthma symptoms or exposure to a trigger, while the long-term medicines are used daily to prevent asthma attacks.
Proper asthma management is critical for asthma control. The disease requires constant monitoring even if no symptoms are present. Those with asthma should be sure to see their physician regularly, understand what triggers individual asthma attacks, monitor symptoms and obtain an Asthma Treatment Plan (ATP) from their health care provider. An ATP is a written plan that tells people with asthma or their caregivers how to manage asthma symptoms including steps that can be taken everyday to prevent symptoms from happening and what to do if symptoms start or worsen. When used properly, the plan can help people control their asthma.
See the following resources for additional information on asthma.
- The New Jersey Asthma Awareness Education Program (AAEP)
- The American Lung Association
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asthma webpage
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