ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As the temperatures increase and trees and flowers begin to bud asthma sufferers are on alert.
Dr. Dominick DeFelice of Highland Family Medicine discussed the condition, those most at-risk, and when someone should seek urgent treatment Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.
We are talking about asthma and how to recognize the warning signs. What is asthma?
Asthma is tightening and inflammation of the airways in response to some trigger. So thinking about common asthma triggers like seasonal allergens and exercise, spring is a common time for people to suffer from flares. We see more flares in the spring as trees and flowers shed pollen and other allergens and of course, people are more active when the weather gets warmer, so folks can trigger their exercise-induced asthma. Also, it’s still a common time for upper respiratory viruses to be circulating in the community, and these infections can trigger an asthma exacerbation as well.
How many people suffer from asthma, and who is most at risk of a severe flare?
Asthma affects about 8% of children and adults, though many may think of it as mostly a childhood condition. Females are more likely to have asthma, black people suffer at a rate of about 10%, those living in poverty at a rate of about 12%, and the northeast has slightly higher rates than the south and western parts of the country. In terms of who is at risk of a severe flare, asthma severity is graded based on the frequency and severity of symptoms such as night-time shortness of breath, coughing, and the need to use a rescue inhaler. Those with more severe underlying asthma are at higher risk of having worse flares, and a history of the need for hospitalization or intubation for asthma is actually a yardstick we use to estimate who might have that level of severity in the future.
We know asthma is treatable. Can you talk a little about standard treatment and what should trigger someone to get more urgent treatment?
Asthma for the vast majority of sufferers is manageable. Based on the severity there are many medications, either inhalers or oral medications or in severe cases injections, that can control a person’s breathing and reduce the frequency and severity of flares. These specific treatment plans can often be worked on between a child or adult and their primary doctor. A great tool that we use all the time that will allow patients and their families to recognize the warning signs of an asthma flare is what is called an Asthma Action Plan. It’s a one-page, color-coded tool to help a person see if they are safe to use their usual meds, step up to using their rescue meds, or take their rescue meds as they call 911 or go immediately to the hospital. This form can be discussed with the patient’s primary doctor as well.