Asthma is a chronic lung disease that usually involves constant underlying inflammation and lung damage. Asthmatics suffer acute attacks during which air passages in the lungs narrow and breathing becomes difficult. Attacks can vary from mild to life-threatening and can be triggered by things people are allergic to (allergens) or things that irritate the lungs. While there are multiple factors that can make asthma more severe, both inhalant allergens and respiratory irritants increase the frequency, severity, and duration of asthma symptoms.
Try this: Put a straw in your mouth and start breathing through it. Then, slowly pinch the straw to restrict the airflow. Finally, pinch the straw tightly, so it takes all your effort to get some air. Keep it up for awhile. This exercise may give you some idea of what a person with asthma experiences when having an attack.
The increase of asthma rates is breathtaking.
- Rates doubled 1980-95 nationally, making asthma the leading serious chronic illness of children. During this period, asthma-related deaths of children increased 50% to 1500 per year.
- Rates are higher in Cuyahoga County than the US as a whole. A report by the Center for Community Solutions and Cleveland State University found that in 2008, the Cuyahoga County/US prevalence was:
- 13%/8% for White children
- 24%/17% for African American children
- 24%/8% for Hispanic children
- By high school more than one and five children in Cuyahoga County have been told that they have asthma.
Asthma is an environmental justice concern related to poverty and substandard housing.
- From The Burden of Asthma in Ohio (Ohio Department of Health):
Substandard housing conditions provide asthma trigger sources that are inhalant allergens and respiratory irritants:
2007 NIH Asthma Guidelines <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/>
In fact, 40% of the risk of asthma for minority children is attributable to residential triggers (B. Lanphear, et al, Residential Exposures Associated with Asthma in US Children, PEDIATRICS, March 2001).
Asthma resources for Cuyahoga County:
- Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures by the Institute of Medicine (2000). Read the report free online.
- Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics
- Allergy and Clinical Immunology- Johns Hopkins Asthma & Allergy
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
- American Lung Association’s Asthma Page