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According to the Kentucky Asthma Surveillance Report 2009, asthma affects 8.6 percent of adults in Kentucky. Asthma is responsible for 6,000 hospitalizations per year, with approximately $62 million in inpatient hospital charges. A growing number of people are diagnosed with asthma each year. It isn’t clear why, though indoor and outdoor air pollution is known to be a contributing factor.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. Airways are tubes that allow air in and out of the lungs. With asthma the airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen. In addition, membranes in the airway linings secrete excess mucus and the muscles around the airways tighten and make them narrower. Asthma, like many chronic diseases, cannot be cured but it can be controlled.
Asthma signs and symptoms include:
Sometimes coughing is the only symptom. Coughing from asthma is often worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
A whistling or squeaky sound during breathing.
Shortness of breath
Some people say they can’t catch their breath or feel breathless. You might feel like you can’t get enough air in or out of your lungs.
Chest pain or tightness
This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
With proper management, people with asthma should have few, if any, symptoms.
When to see a doctor
These key circumstances may lead you to talk to your doctor about asthma:
If you think you have asthma
If you have frequent coughing that lasts more than a few days or any other signs or symptoms of asthma see your doctor. Treating asthma early, especially in children, can prevent long-term lung damage and help keep the condition from worsening over time.
To monitor your asthma after diagnosis
If you know you have asthma, work with your doctor to keep it under control. Good long-term asthma control not only helps you feel better on a daily basis, but also can prevent a life-threatening asthma attack.
If your asthma symptoms get worse
Contact your doctor right away if your medication doesn’t seem to ease your symptoms or you need to use your quick-relief inhaler more and more often. Don’t try to solve the problem by taking more medication without consulting your doctor. Overusing asthma medication can cause side effects and can even make your asthma worse.
To review your treatment
Asthma changes over time. Meet with your doctor on a regular basis to discuss your symptoms and make any needed adjustments to your treatment.
When to seek emergency treatment
Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Work with your doctor ahead of time to determine what to do when your signs and symptoms worsen and when you need emergency treatment. If your quick-relief medications don’t relieve symptoms of a severe asthma attack, seek emergency help right away.
Donny Gill is a health educator with the Hardin County Health Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.