May is Asthma Awareness Month: Managing Chronic Disease

May is National Asthma Awareness Month, and health experts advise Tenneseans to reduce exposure to air pollution and allergens. Photo credit: Alviman/Morguefile.com

May is National Asthma Awareness Month, and health experts advise Tenneseans to reduce exposure to air pollution and allergens. Photo credit: Alviman/Morguefile.com

More than 7,000 Tenneseans were hospitalized for asthma in 2010, the most recent data available. Thousands more have the chronic disease of the respiratory system, which is made even more difficult by spring pollen and other allergens. Dr. Michael Warren, director of family health and wellness with the Tennessee Department of Health, says in spite of the ability to treat the disease, it still presents a problem to thousands in the state. “We know asthma can have severe and serious consequences, impacting people’s ability to be in school or to work or participate in recreation activities,” says Warren. “So it can be a very serious problem.” Asthma causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Air pollution is a major environmental trigger for asthma. Too much pollution during childhood can permanently reduce lung function. According to the state Department of Health, more than 11 percent of children in Tennessee have asthma, and seven percent of adults have the disease. Warren says one of the best methods of managing asthma is to check in regularly with your doctor. “It’s really important for people to have a health-care provider they check in with regularly who can see how they’re doing,” he says. “Who can do a good exam and listen to their lungs, but also find out how their symptoms are being managed.” Warren adds, people with asthma should pay special attention to the air quality, especially in warmer months. “Most cities now will do air-quality alerts. Being mindful if you’re a person with asthma of what the air quality is in your community for that day can be really important,” he says. To prevent asthma attacks, experts recommend avoiding strong chemicals, odors and tobacco smoke.