It's National Respiratory Care Week (October 19-25) and more than 17 million Americans are living with asthma - five million of them children. But despite national guidelines indicating the disease can be properly controlled with the right treatments and medications, too many are still having frequent flare-ups.
"We have had national guidelines for treating asthma out for some years now, yet many people are still having uncontrolled asthma attacks," said Joe Ozog Respiratory Therapy supervisor at St. Joseph's Hospital. "We still need to get the word out to our patients that proper medical treatment and avoidance of triggers can have a great effect on their lives."
Respiratory Therapists (RTs) at St. Joseph's are specially trained and licensed respiratory health care professionals assisting physicians in diagnosis, treatment, and management of respiratory diseases. RTs provide care in hospitals, outpatient centers, physicians' offices, skilled nursing facilities, and patients' homes. The therapists provide an excellent service through the use of national guideline and protocols.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the small airways. Much of the time people with asthma breathe just fine, but when the lungs become overly sensitive to allergens or irritants the airways swell and twitch or tighten up. This makes getting air in and out of the lungs difficult. An attack can make the person feel breathless, wheeze, cough, and have chest pain.
It's important for people with asthma to understand what triggers their asthma and take steps to minimize exposure to these substances. Total isolation from all triggers is impossible and that's why medications play a key role in asthma control.
Basically, asthma medications can be divided into two types: controller medications people take every day to help prevent inflammation in the airways, and rescue medications they take to quickly open up the airways when an attack is underway.
Everyone with asthma should also have an Asthma Action Plan that tells them how to control their asthma and what to do if symptoms flare up. The Asthma Action Plan empowers the patient to control the asthma rather than the other way around.
Understanding asthma is the key to controlling the condition, say respiratory therapists from the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). Here are six points they believe everyone with the disease should know:
Asthma is a chronic disease of the small airways - which means it is always present, whether a person is having symptoms or not.
Asthma is most often triggered by allergens or irritants. People with asthma should know their triggers and take steps to avoid them.
There are two different types of medications for asthma: controller medications ease the inflammation that is always present in the person's airways; rescue medications quickly relieve symptoms during an asthma attack.
Preventing asthma attacks often requires taking controller medications on a daily basis, as prescribed by your physician, even if you are feeling and breathing just fine.
An Asthma Action Plan includes all of the steps people need to take to keep their asthma under control, as well as what they should do in the event of an asthma attack.
People with well-controlled asthma can participate in sports and other physical activities without risking their health.
For more information on asthma, visit the AARC's consumer web site, www.yourlunghealth.org.
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