Thursday, May 03, 2012

Thursday Thirteen #240

May is National Asthma Awareness Month in the United States and May 1 was World Asthma Day. I have asthma, so I thought I'd share some facts.

Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system, thought to be chronic inflammation. It is often associated with allergies. Symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, and chest tightness. Severe asthma can lead to death.

Untreated asthma or asthma that does not respond well to treatment can severely limit functioning.

1. More than 25 million Americans have asthma. That figure includes 7 million children.

2. Medical expenses associated with asthma are estimated at $50 billion annually.

3. Death rates for asthma is highest in those over the age of 65.

4. Asthma appears to be on the increase. The prevalence rose from 7.3 percent of the population in 2001 to 8.4 percent in 2010.

5. So far, doctors have been unable to find either a cure or cause for asthma.

6. Asthma can be controlled and treated. Treatments range from nebulizers to steroid inhalers, along with the use of drugs for allergies, allergy shots, and other methods.

7. Most people with asthma also have allergies.

8. Lung function tests are used to determine if a person has asthma. The most common of these is called spirometry. It measures the amount of air a person can blow in and out.

9. Asthma triggers include allergens (dust, pet hair, pollen), environmental irritants (cigarette smoke, perfume), medications, sulfites in food (wine, cheeses), respiratory infections, and physical activity.

10. Stress, poor health, and sleep apnea can also cause asthma sufferers to have attacks.

11. Current asthma treatment involves controller medications (such as inhaled corticosteroids) and emergency inhalers, such as albuterol. Additionally, trigger avoidance is very important. Doctors create asthma action plans for their patients. You can download a free action plan here.

12. Asthma sufferers should learn to use a peak flow meter so that they can keep track of their breathing and know when to seek help.

13. A new thought on asthma is that, in some instances, it is actually a case of a smoldering infection that can be cleared up with long-term antibiotics. You can read about that here, here, and here (more links below). The theory is that these people are actually suffering from a form of pneumonia that lingers and causes inflammation.

After I learned about this possible link in February, I contacted my primary care doctor and asked her to look into it. I explained to her that I wanted to consider the long-term antibiotics if she thought it was viable. I always had felt I could breathe better after I have been on antibiotics.

I had also run into problems using the inhaled corticosteroids; they made me break out in a severe rash.

After she researched the issues (she's a good doctor), she agreed it was worth trying.

I was on an antibiotic called azithromycin for 24 days. During that time, my peak flow meter numbers rose from 360 to 460 - unheard of on the other medications I was taking at the time. After the second day on the antibiotic, I no longer experienced chest pain and tightness.

I have been off the antibiotic for a month now and my peak flow numbers are still good. Not 460 good but 440 good and I'm not complaining about that! I am able to exercise, walk up hills, and climb steps without getting out of breath. I haven't had chest pain since I took the antibiotics.

Cured? I don't know. Better? You bet. Will I take antibiotics again if my asthma becomes a problem? Yes indeed.

I have read some reports that the asthma symptoms will return if the antibiotic wasn't continued long enough. Apparently this particular pneumonia is hard to eradicate completely. So I am monitoring my breathing carefully still.

This has been my experience. I do not know if it is typical. But if you are an asthma sufferer, I hope you research the issue before you dismiss it out of hand.

Again, this might not help everyone. People should consult with their doctors.

Here are some additional links about asthma:

Statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma Increases to Record Levels, Deaths Among Baby Boomers Highest

Information from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Asthma: Searching for a Cure (antibiotics)

Antibiotics Cure for Severe Asthma

Antibiotics Could Treat Asthma

Asthma Story: How One Man Cured His Asthma

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 240th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. I'm glad that you're feeling better!

  2. Thanks for this info on asthma. A few people close to me are asthma sufferers - son, mom, a close friend. And no. 7 on your list is very true to them.

    1. Asthma can be quite dangerous. It is important to know how to help if a loved one has this problem.

  3. A peak flow meter? I should check that out. I don't officially have asthma, but sometimes it's hard to breathe.

    1. You can buy a relatively inexpensive one at any home health care specialist, or online, but the digital ones seem to me to be the best.

  4. Thanks for another enlightening post, Anita. I found your antibiotic experience especially interesting. I have noticed my asthma - which never used to bother me much - has been worse since a bout with pneumonia a few years ago, especially in extreme cold or the record-breaking heat (temps around 100F) we had last summer. I've found it more comfortable to exercise indoors during those times whenever possible.

    1. I hope you will talk to your doctor about the problem. Don't let it go!

  5. An interesting post on an important subject. I like our attitude -- "better" may not be as good as "cured," but it's better than suffering.

  6. I am so glad to live somewhere that has clean air. Great tips.

    1. I live in the country; you'd think I would have clean air, but there is a cement plant not far from me.

  7. Asthma is such a horrible thing, both for the inflicted and those in the vicinity. It's interesting how asthma and allergies are increasing. It's obviously something to do with what we're eating or something in the air.

    1. I agree. I think environment has a lot to do with it.

  8. My bff has asthma. I think the most terrifying moment was watching her have a full blown asthma attack. Very scary. Thanks for the lesson. Happy T13!

    1. They can be very scary! And they require immediate attention.

  9. Great info! I think a lot of people don't really know what asthma is and that it can be so serious. Thanks for spreading the word!


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