By: Robyn Kreiner M.D. and Raphael Strauss, M.D., Strauss Allergy & Asthma (Commack & Westbury, NY)
Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways of the lung. Symptoms are cough, shortness of breath and/or wheezing. Note that a chronic or recurrent cough can be a symptom of asthma.
Asthma can be a chronic or intermittent disease affecting about 9% of children and 5% of adults in the United States.
How do you tell if asthma is well-controlled?
If you or your child is missing work/school or activities due to asthma or it has interfered with sleep or caused you to alter activities, asthma may not be well controlled.
Asthma should be assessed by:
- Symptoms: Ask questions like those in the ACT test: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Childhood_ACT.pdf
(Keep in mind that the answers may change at different times of the year) And
- Pulmonary function testing for those able to do this test(usually after age 6)
Understanding the triggers of asthma are very important to controlling the disease.
Viral respiratory infections are the major trigger in young children but exercise, cigarette smoke exposure, air pollution, changes in weather and allergens are often major factors as well. Allergy testing by an allergist can be beneficial to rule out any potential allergens in your environment that may be triggers.
There are two categories of medicine for treating asthma:
1. Relievers which treat cough, wheeze and shortness of breath immediately. The most common medication in use for this is albuterol which is available in an inhaler or by nebulizer solution. These medications do not prevent or alter the disease process.
- Controllers prevent symptoms of asthma. These medications make it far less likely for asthma to disrupt your life. There are many of these medications but the most effective are inhaled corticosteroids (Flovent, Pulmicort, Asmanex, Qvar). The side effects of these medications are few and the benefits can be tremendous making them an excellent choice for many patients.
- Combination medications include both an inhaled corticosteroid and a long-acting bronchodilator (Advair, Breo, Dulera, Symbicort) and are great for controlling asthma symptoms and the underlying inflammatory process if needed.
For those with asthma follow up every 3 months is important in order to assess control. Adjustment of the patient’s medications should be considered at every visit.
See your doctor before the Fall season and get control of asthma!