Did you know asthma affects 1 in 13 people in the United States? Asthma is a long-term condition that can make it harder for you to breathe because the airways of your lungs become inflamed and narrow. If you have the disease (or think you do), don’t tough it out. There’s no cure for asthma, but you can usually manage it by following some key steps that will help you live a full and active life.
Here are some important facts to know first:
- Asthma affects some communities more than others. Black people and American Indian/Alaska Native people have the highest asthma rates of any racial or ethnic group, according to the CDC. In fact, black people are over 40 percent more likely to have asthma than white people.
- Asthma rates vary within some communities. For example, Puerto Rican Americans have twice the asthma rate of the overall U.S. Hispanic/Latino population.
- Some groups are more likely to have serious consequences from asthma. The CDC found that black people are almost four times more likely to be hospitalized because of their asthma than white people.
- Almost twice as many women as men have asthma.
Even if you experience asthma differently than others, you can still take action to try to control your symptoms and begin doing the things you love. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends these four steps:
Talk to your primary care provider.
Work with your primary care provider to set up an asthma action plan. This plan explains how to manage your asthma, what medicines to take and when, and what to do if your symptoms worsen. This plan will also tell you what to do in an emergency.
Know and track your asthma symptoms.
Are you experiencing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath? Tell your primary care provider about them, and make sure to keep track of any changes. That way, you and your provider can know whether your treatment plan is working.
Identify and manage your triggers.
Some common asthma triggers include dust, mold, pollen, pests like cockroaches or rodents, and pet hair. The asthma action plan can help you determine what triggers worsen your asthma and how to manage them.
Avoid cigarette smoke.
If you smoke, talk to your primary care provider about ways to help you quit. If you have loved ones who smoke, ask them to quit. Do your best to avoid smoke in shared indoor spaces, including your home and car.
We don’t know everything that can cause asthma, but we know that genetic, environmental, and occupational factors have been linked to developing asthma. Being exposed to things in the environment, like mold or dampness, some allergens such as dust mites, and secondhand tobacco smoke have been linked to developing asthma. Air pollution and viral lung infection may also lead to asthma. So, if you have asthma, don’t let it stop you from living your life. Remember – you can control your asthma. With your doctor’s help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where they should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.