By Alfredo Lim, M.D.
Have you ever found yourself waking up because you’re short of breath, wheezing or coughing? When you exhale, do you hear a wheezing or whistling sound? If so, you may be one of the 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma.
There’s no clear answer why some people get asthma and others don’t. This lifelong chronic condition is caused in part by genetics, but also your environment. Smoking, being overweight or regular exposure to pollution and allergens also can be factors. Asthma triggers differ from person to person, but most commonly include:
• Airborne allergens, such as pollen and dust
• Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
• Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
• Animal dander, mold and dust mites
• Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat
Your doctor will examine you and ask you about your health history and signs/symptoms. You may also be given lung function tests to determine your air flow.
After an asthma diagnosis, your doctor will help you identify your triggers and how to avoid them. Prevention is crucial to stopping asthma attacks before they start.
Depending on the severity of your asthma, you may need to take a daily medication. Some individuals may only need an inhaler for quick relief if their asthma flares up.
Steps to take at home to lessen your exposure to triggers include:
• Observe Phoenix’s No Burn Days. The Maricopa County Air Quality Department regulates the use of wood burning during periods of high particulate matter or (dust) pollution. The burning wood produces fine particulate matter that can be harmful to those with asthma.
• Clean regularly and reduce pet dander. To help minimize dust, wash curtains and blinds regularly. Keep pets out of carpeted areas, which trap more dander and dust than hard surfaces.
• Use your air conditioner. It sounds like a no-brainer, especially when summer temperatures start to soar, but air conditioning reduces the amount of airborne pollen that can find its way indoors.