MAY IS NATIONAL
ASTHMA AND ALLERGY
BY EMILY GURNON
MORE THAN 25 million Americans— 7
million of them children—have asthma,
and the prevalence of asthma among all
ages has steadily risen in recent years,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. More than just an
occasional bout of wheezing, the disease
can be debilitating and even deadly.
When you have asthma, the airways in
your lungs are swollen. They become even
more constricted when something triggers
your symptoms. Common triggers include
exposure to allergens, like pollen, mold,
dust mites and pet dander. Respiratory
infections, exercise and acid reflux can
also spark flare-ups.
Though asthma has no cure, most people can manage the illness.
“Asthma is a very treatable condition,”
says Dr. Emily Pennington, an asthma specialist at Cleveland Clinic. “It shouldn’t be
your everyday life that you can’t sleep at
night and need your rescue inhaler on a
daily basis. We have a lot of good therapies.”
The best way to control your asthma is
to be consistent about taking your prescribed medications, even when you feel
good. Don’t skip doses. And always keep
your rescue inhaler with you for times you
need quick relief.
“Most of us don’t want to have to deal
with a chronic illness or admit we have a
chronic illness,” says Dr. Miriam Anand,
an asthma specialist in Tempe, Arizona,
spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy
Foundation of America and a Costco mem-
ber. “So it can be a little tough to convince
people sometimes of the seriousness.”
Anand and other allergists have seen
deaths in patients who failed to stay on
their daily medicines and avoid triggers,
she says. “That’s why people don’t want to
write it off or discount it.”
How do you know if your asthma or
your child’s asthma is getting worse?
The signs may not be obvious, Anand
says. “Maybe they were somebody who
used to go exercise three times a week, or
they used to take the stairs at work, but now
that’s becoming more difficult for them.”
For a child, it might mean coughing
more or having to stop and catch their
breath during play, Anand notes. A crying
or laughing spell that ends in coughing is
also a sign of poorly controlled asthma.
The bottom line: Get proper medical
attention from your primary care doctor or
an allergist, Pennington says. “We can
help you so that you’re able to do the activities you want to do in your life and you
don’t feel like you’re limited.” C
Emily Gurnon is a health editor based
in St. Paul, Minnesota.
THE MOST common symptoms of
asthma, according to the Asthma and
Allergy Foundation of America, include:
• Shortness of breath.
• Fast breathing.
• Chest tightness.
If you have asthma
Don’t stop taking your daily asthma
medications when you feel better. In
order to work best, they need to be
taken even when things improve.
Don’t assume that your childhood
asthma is gone. Your symptoms may
have disappeared, but they also may
come back in adulthood.
Do take asthma seriously. The
worsening of symptoms can be subtle.
When to get immediate help
These signs mean you need to
call 911 or go to an emergency room
right away, according to the American
• A worsening of your breathing even
after you have used your rescue inhaler.
• Blue lips or nails.
• Flaring nostrils when you breathe in.
• Fast breathing ( 30 or more breaths
• Chest retraction (when the skin
between your ribs or at the base of your
throat appears to pull in when you inhale).
• Inability to talk or walk at a
For more information about asthma,
explore these websites:
• Asthma and Allergy Foundation of
• American Lung Association, lung.org.
© AFRICA STUDIO / SHUTTERSTOCK
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Costco members can get their asthma
medications and inhaler prescriptions
filled at Costco pharmacies.