Tag: Asthma

Asthma In The African American Community

It’s still Asthma Awareness Month! Although I’ve discussed this topic before, this time I’d like to focus on asthma in the African American community.

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lung airways. With asthma, the airways are inflamed (swollen) and react easily to certain triggers, like smoke or dust mites. When the inflamed airways react, they get narrow and make it hard to breathe. Common asthma symptoms are:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing — a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
  • Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
  • Faster breathing or noisy breathing

There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. Anybody can get asthma, but it is seen more often in African-Americans. More than 3 million African-Americans have asthma. African-Americans go to the hospital emergency room more than whites because of asthma. They also are almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than whites. Asthma most often starts in childhood, and it is a top health problem for African-American children. Asthma is a leading reason why kids miss school.

Here are some discouraging facts about African Americans who suffer from asthma:

  • Asthma has a genetic component. If only one parent has asthma, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have asthma. If both parents have asthma, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have asthma.
  • Ethnic differences in asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens, and lack of patient education and inadequate medical care.
  • African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma.  African American Women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women
  • African American women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women

Asthma is more common and more severe among children; women; low-income, inner-city residents; and African American and Puerto Rican communities. In general, these disadvantaged and at-risk populations experience above-average rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths that are much higher than differences in asthma prevalence would suggest.

The reasons for these disparities are complex, but cannot be attributed to genetic differences alone. Economic, social, and cultural factors—ranging from lack of access to quality health care to differences in health beliefs between patients and their doctors—add to the greater asthma burden among these groups. Individuals within disadvantaged populations also may face substandard housing and work conditions that place them at greater risk for frequent and prolonged exposure to environmental allergens and irritants that worsen asthma.

Bridging this disparity gap is a challenge. It will require innovative and sustained efforts at multiple levels to translate, tailor, and deliver effective asthma care to diverse populations in line with the recommendations of the EPR-3 guidelines and its companion GIP Report.

All stakeholders involved in controlling asthma have a role to play in reducing asthma-related health disparities.

*Sources include:

Women’s Health

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

AA Asthma

May Is Asthma Awareness Month!

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 NHLBI’s Asthma Awareness Twitter Chat with U.S. News on May 14 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT. Follow the chat using the #AsthmaChat hashtag.

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 2