Many asthma medications are steroids. Steroids?  When I think of steroids, I think of people who are trying to build big muscles.  So why do we use steroids to treat asthma?

Inhaled steroids prevent asthma symptoms according to WebMD.  They also make the distinction that asthma steroids are not the same kinds of steroids that are used to bulk up.  The steroids used to treat asthma are anti-inflammatory drugs, which prevent symptoms from developing.

If you are interested in research that has shown whether or not steroid use is safe, the National Institutes of Health published a news release regarding a study that was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.   This 5-year study found that the steroids reduced the sensitivity of the airway to irritants.  The only side effect was a slight delay in growth that proved to be temporary.

The important thing is to weigh out your options and talk with your doctor.  He or she will be able to help you choose the right medicine for yourself or your child.

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Asthma greatly affects the life of an individual.  Asthma symptoms can impair an individual and threaten to disrupt every day.  So what happens when a woman wants to have a baby.  Is it possible with asthma?  Can asthma medication still be taken when one is pregnant.

The answer is yes.  It is very important, however, that you work with  a doctor.  The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology offers tips to women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.

Pregnancy is safe for women with asthma so long as these women manage their asthma.  If they do not, harm could befall them or their baby.  When the mom suffers from an asthma attack, the baby in utero also suffers from a lack of oxygen.  About 1/3 of women say their asthma symptoms got better, 1/3 stayed the same, and 1/3 got worse.  You cannot know until you experience pregnancy.

Medication is safe to take during pregnancy.  Your baby is more likely to suffer harm when you are not taking your asthma medication than when you are.

The March of Dimes strongly recommends that you work closely with your doctor when you become pregnant to manage your asthma symptoms and protect the baby.  though it is not widely understood as to why asthma worsens during pregnancy, they suggest it may have to do with an increase in heartburn that women experience.

Some women do experience asthma symptoms during labor and delivery.  Medications should be continued to be taken even after the baby is born.

The Asthma Mom recently posted about an incident in the United Kingdom.  This is truly heartbreaking.  A student at a primary school struggled with an asthma attack throughout the day, while no adults called an ambulance to help him overcome his asthma.  He later died that day.

You can read the article produced by the BBC here. A British court ruled that the school neglected its duties.

Those of us who deal with asthma on a daily basis, whether it be a friend, family member, or you, may be shocked to hear that nothing was done when this boy began suffering from an asthma attack.  Or you might not be surprised, depending on the awareness of asthma in your area.

I think this is a reminder to us that we need to continue to advocate asthma awareness and research.  If you are interested becoming more involved with asthma advocacy, see my Get Involved Page.

There are many asthma triggers out there.  Many of them we cannot see, and that is what scares me, and quite honestly, grosses me out.  I remember learning about this when I took Environmental Health last semester, and just remembering them makes me squirm, especially because I live in an old house with 5 other girls with a cleaning check once a semester.

In my former apartment, we had cleaning checks where the management would essentially inspect our apartments to make sure we were keeping them clean.  It was a win-win situation for both parties, though we often complained.  The landlord knew that we were keeping the apartment in the best condition, and even the messiest roommate had to clean up her mess.  I loved those Saturday evenings feeling comfortable that there were no crumbs on the kitchen floor as it had been mopped that very morning.

Asthma sufferers can help improve their symptoms by taking charge and trying to eliminate environmental triggers.  Indoor air quality is essential to keeping asthma under control.  Luckily, there are simple things we can do to improve our lives!

The EPA discusses some of the triggers in our home environment.

Mold.  It grows everywhere moist.  Most of us can see it in our showers and occasionally on the ceiling.  We can reduce the mold in our homes by cleaning up wetness and turning on the bathroom fan after we shower.

Dust Mites.  Ok, I’m starting to get squirmy.  These microscopic bugs live everywhere (our sheets, bedding, pillows, couches, blankets…) and can cause irritation. Vacuuming and washing our bedding once a week can help improve asthma symptoms.

Secondhand Smoke. Don’t smoke and don’t let people do it in your home.  Be strong and firm and if you need to explain how it harms you.

Cockroaches.  I know, another really gross one. Their body parts and droppings may cause irritation.  Be clean and do not leave food out on the counter or any liquids out.  Cover your trash cans and do not leave dishes in the sink. 🙂 I know its hard (I do not have a dishwasher) but it is essential to your health. 🙂

Chemical Irritants. Avoid harsh chemicals when cleaning or sanitizing. If you do use the products, open windows or turn on a fan to make sure there is good ventilation.

If you are interested in learning about making an asthma plan for yourself or your child, the EPA has a form you can use.  Take charge!

Exercise Induced Asthma is a common form of asthma that is triggered when a person engages in 20 minutes of exercise or more.  People who struggle with this may not have other triggers for their asthma.  They may wonder why they have a feeling of a tight chest while they exercise.  They may have a tight chest and wheeze despite their continuous efforts at exercise.

Some of the triggers of Exercised Induced Asthma include dry, cold air.  According to the American Academy  of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, “Air is usually warmed and humidified by the nose, but during demanding activity people breathe more through their mouths. This allows cold, dry air to reach your lower airways and your lungs without passing through your nose, triggering asthma symptoms.”  That’s cool to know, isn’t it?

Exercise Induced Asthma also occurs commonly in elite athletes.  So if you have this condition know you are not alone, and are with the elite. 🙂  In her blog “Well” Gretchen Reynolds discussed how common it is for winter athletes to experience Exercise Induced Asthma.   She discusses how researchers used to think that the cold air was what caused exercise induced asthma, but they now think it may more be of an issue of dry air wearing on the lungs.  The Exercise Induced Asthma may be a symptom of over use in dry air.

Some strategies for overcoming Exercise Induced Asthma, besides consulting with your doctor, is to try to breath through your nose.  This will moisten the air.  Though this may be difficult during periods of particularly taxing exercise, taking a few moments to breath through your nose may  make all the difference.

Choosing an asthma inhaler can be very intimidating.  There are so many brands!  I’ve seen purple ones, round ones, upright ones like in the picture above.  It is important to work with your doctor to find the right for you, especially because different inhalers have different side effects.

The Mayo Clinic has an easy-to-read chart which discusses the different types of inhalers, and includes advantages and disadvantages.

There are three main types of inhalers:metered dose inhalers, metered dose inhaler with a spacer, and dry powder inhalers.

Metered dose inhalers spray the medicine out when you push it.  You don’t have to breath in really quickly, but the medicine might get stuck at the back of your throat.

Metered dose inhalers with a spacer are larger than metered dose inhalers without a spacer, but are convenient because it is easier to coordinate your breath with the release of the medicine.

Dry Powder Inhalers are also convenient to carry.  You do have to breath in deeply and quickly when taking a dose, which may be difficult during an attack.  You also need to make sure you do not breath the medicine out.  Dry powder inhalers are convenient because you can keep track of when they are running out.

The medication in inhalers is albuterol.  Albuterol relaxes your airways when so that you can breath more easily.  It is commonly used for asthma as well as exercise induced asthma.

When choosing an inhaler, be sure to tell your doctor if your inhaler is not working or makes things worse.  The good news is that you can take charge of your asthma with many available medications.  🙂

If you are a reader who does not suffer from asthma, this video is a great insight on what life if like for asthma sufferers.  For those of you who do have asthma, the routine in this video is something you are familiar with.

As Mercedes has discovered, a big part of being in charge of your asthma means taking precautions and preventative measures to keep your home clean and free of dust, mold, and other irritants.  Thankfully she is able to receive allergy shots for immunotherapy so she does not suffer from an asthma attack every day.

An important issue regarding asthma is medical coverage.  If I have severe asthma, I might need to receive frequent injections or use inhalers often.  Prescription medication is very expensive, and may become a burden on a family.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a great guide to choosing an insurance plan in regards to asthma.  When choosing a plan, it is important to read the fine print, understand what is covered and what is not, and understanding the complete costs.  Also remember that new changes may be coming as result of current congressional legislation.

Often asthma sufferers experience asthma attacks as a result of triggers, substances in the air that can cause irritation or an asthma attack.  My cousin’s are cats and stress.  My sister’s are cats (might be a trend…) and exercise.  Have you discovered yours?

It is important to identify triggers if you have them because then you can take charge and alter your environment so that you do not face these triggers.  If you or your child are in school, you may be able to work with staff so that these triggers are removed, posing less danger to you and those around you.

The CDC, in an effort to make our children more healthy, conducted a school health profile study across the United States to better grasp the ability of our schools to deal with an asthma situation.  76% of schools had adopted a policy that allowed children to carry their asthma medications with them so that they could take their medications at the time they need them.  Only 46% of schools had an action plan for every student with asthma so that in case of an attack, they knew how to deal with them.

It is very important to be an active part of your children’s schools or your own school in advocating a healthy environment for everyone, especially those who suffer from asthma.  The American Lung Association advocates that schools should have a current plan on how to manage asthma.  They also maintain that all schools should have an environment management plan to keep their school healthy and safe.  To read the National Asthma Public Policy Agenda, go here.

Take charge and breath easier! 🙂

Aside from the annoyances that come from having to deal with a debilitating chronic condition, asthma affects American in almost every setting.  This is because asthma affects people of all ages, races, and genders.

Here are some interesting and scary statistics found at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation:

Daily in the United States:

40,000 people miss work or school due to asthma.

30,000 people have an asthma attack.

5,000 people visit the ER because of their asthma.

1,000 people are admitted to the hospital because of asthma.

11 people die because of asthma.

Direct costs of asthma include $10 billion in health care costs and $8 billion dollars lost in productivity due to asthma.

According to the CDC, asthma caused a total of 12.8 million missed school days in the year 2003.

Taking charge of our asthma or helping our children, family, and friends take charge of theirs will help reduce the problems as a result of asthma.  Let’s take charge!

Have you ever wheezed?

Have you ever felt like you were breathing through a straw?

Try it.  Grab a soda straw, put it in your mouth, and job in place for 30 seconds.

Is it hard to breath?  There is a chronic condition in which many people experience this feeling on a regular basis.  What is that condition?

Asthma.

Perhaps you may remember a friend from elementary school who suffered from Asthma.  It may be your grandfather, your Aunt, or your mom.  You might be a sufferer of Asthma too.  Regardless of whether you are a sufferer or someone you know is, Asthma is a disease that affects everyone.

Asthma is a chronic condition that is characterized by the swelling of the airways and excess production of mucus making breathing extremely difficult.  The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America provides an excellent overview of asthma.  They characterize asthma as an inflammatory condition where the airway is temporarily inflamed, preventing  the transport of oxygen from the mouth to the lungs.  According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma is further complicated when the muscles surrounding the bronchial tube tighten, leaving the asthma sufferer feeling an overwhelming sensation of constriction.

There is no cure for asthma, but we can all take charge of asthma through our lifestyle.  Welcome!