Asthma is a lung disease. People who have asthma live with it every day, all their lives. Although asthma may be managed, there is no cure for it. Asthma makes it hard to breathe. It causes coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The symptoms are usually temporary and reversible with proper treatment but severe cases may result in death.
With over 34 million asthmatics in the US,
of these about 7 million children,
asthma is no longer a problem which can be ignored.
Anybody can get asthma and at any age. Asthma usually runs in families. If you have a close relative with asthma, you are more likely to get asthma.
Asthma symptoms are usually caused by things in the environment, called triggers. It is important to be aware of things in the environment that can make asthma worse. These factors may vary from person to person.
Treating asthma is largely a matter of reducing the narrowing in the airways, which allows easier air movement. This can be done by dilating (widening) the airways, and by reducing inflammation in the airway walls.
A common way for you and your doctor to measure how well you are breathing normally or during an attack is the peak flow meter. This gadget measures how fast you can exhale; since the airway narrowing of asthma affects expiration more than inhalation, the peak expiratory flow, or PEF, can tell you the severity of the inflammation. Your doctor may recommend a peak flow meter to you, and show you how to use it and what flow rates are signs of impending trouble. In some cases (usually with experienced patients or parents) your doctor may suggest different or additional medicines for different peak flow rates.
Trouble breathing is, of course, a sign of worsening asthma. An earlier sign in many patients is a cough that worsens or persists for a while, although this could be a simple cold as well. Many doctors will try to listen to the lungs of any known asthmatic with a persistent cough, since sometimes the characteristic wheeze cannot be heard without the stethoscope. A patient with asthma who is having trouble talking needs to be seen by a doctor right away: this indicates a lot of trouble moving air. Again, your doctor can review other danger signs with you.
In response to this health issue, the Childhood Asthma Program was established with the support of the Riverside County Children and Families Commission (Proposition 10) and the University of San Francisco CAASA (California Asthma Among the School Aged) to serve children with asthma less than five years of age. Partnerships have been established through agreements with the Hemet Valley Medical Center, John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, the Riverside County Regional Medical Center, and Department of Public Health Family Care Centers.