Each May, thousands of organizations across the U.S. join together for Asthma Awareness Month (AAM) in an effort to increase public awareness and improve the lives of children and families with asthma. Be part of this national effort to get asthma under control in communities nationwide!
What is asthma? It’s an incurable inflammatory disorder of the airways. Picture this: You’re short of breath, and you’re trying to fill your lungs by sucking air through a tube the diameter of a plastic coffee stirrer. That’s the helpless, panicked feeling a growing number of people with asthma have experienced . . . time and again.
Asthma is chronic . . . it can be life-threatening . . . and it’s one of our nation’s most common and costly diseases. And the severity of asthma — as well as the frequency of asthma “episodes” — can be influenced by exposures to allergens and irritants in the environment, both indoors and outdoors.
Asthmais one of the most common lifelong chronic diseases. There are 26 million people in the United States living with asthma, a disease affecting the lungs, causing repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma successfully to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes.
Asthma affects people of all ages and backgrounds. In most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to cure it. Certain factors may make it more likely for one person to have asthma than another. If someone in your family has asthma, you are more likely to have it. Regular physical exams that include checking your lung function and checking for allergies can help your healthcare provider make the right diagnosis.
Successful asthma management includes knowing the warning signs of an attack, avoiding things that may trigger an attack, and following the advice of your healthcare provider. Using what you know about managing your asthma can give you control over this chronic disease. When you control your asthma, you will breathe easier, be as active as you would like, sleep well, stay out of the hospital, and be free from coughing and wheezing. To learn more about how you can control your asthma, visit CDC’s asthma site.
With your healthcare provider’s help, you can make your own asthma management plan so that you know what to do based on your own symptoms. Use your asthma medicine as prescribed and be aware of common triggers in the environment known to bring on asthma symptoms, including smoke (including second-hand and third-hand cigarette smoke), household pets, dust mites, and pollen. Limit or avoid exposure to these and other triggers whenever possible. The important thing to remember is that you can control your asthma.
To learn about how CDC supports state asthma control programs, see our Success Stories from CDC’s National Asthma Control Program, National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects.
How to help reduce asthma episodes
Start with an Allergen Control Plan:
- Work with your regular doctor or clinic to figure out which allergens affect your child the most
- Concentrate on controlling those allergens
- Start with the easiest, least expensive options, like working to remove “triggers” in the home — especially the ones that most affect your child
Put your plan into action:
- Set up your room-by-room cleaning plan — starting where the person with asthma sleeps
- Wash bedding and curtains
- Dust and vacuum
- Clean windowsills and frames
- Wet mop floors
- Remove stuffed animals (or enclose them in a cabinet)
Get educated about asthma:
- Learn as much as you can about asthma
- Ask your doctor or clinic for asthma education information and a written asthma action plan
- Join an asthma support group. Studies show they can help you set and reach your goals
- Keep an asthma diary to track asthma episodes
- Work with your doctor or clinic to determine other steps you need to take — such as removing carpeting from your home
Want To be More Active With Asthma Awareness?
Join the asthma awareness Twitter chat
Join the “Get Asthma Aware” thunderclap
Join the NHLBI’s “Get Asthma Aware” Thunderclap by May 6 to pledge your voice to learning more about asthma. Thunderclap is an online action site where users can share the same message at the same time on social media.
Across the country, national organizations and local coalitions are working together to provide strategies and solutions for asthma sufferers and their families. Click on the resources below for more information:
- Asthma Community Network
- The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program
- Cleaning Institute
- Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics
- DC Asthma Coalition
- National Association of School Nurses
- American Lung Association
- ZAP Asthma/Atlanta
- USDA/CSREES, U.S. EPA, and Montana State University Extension Service