The Vermont Department of Health Recognizes May as Asthma Awareness Month

For Immediate Release: May 20, 2003

Media Contact: Corbett Sionainn
Communications Office
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON, VT—According to recent statistics, 6.3 million children and an estimated 14 million adults suffered from asthma in the U.S. in 2001. During the same year, 17 percent of Vermont households with children under age 18 reported at least one child diagnosed with asthma during his/her lifetime and an estimated 40,000 adult Vermonters were living with asthma.

Asthma is a life threatening, chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes episodes of shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures, people living with asthma in Vermont can experience a greater quality of life.

To learn more about asthma in Vermont, go to the asthma page on the Vermont Department of Health’s website.

Asthma Questions and Answers

What is asthma?

Asthma is a life threatening, chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes episodes of shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pain or tightness, tiredness, or a combination of these symptoms. Children who have asthma describe it as feeling like "trying to breathe through a straw."

What can cause asthma?

It is not clearly known why or how people develop asthma. Asthma can begin in early childhood or may first appear later in life. Not all childhood asthma continues into adulthood. Research suggests that any number of things come together to cause asthma. These include a family history of asthma, respiratory infections in young children, exposure to tobacco smoke, house dust mites, or cockroach droppings. Strong evidence suggests that young children who are exposed to second hand tobacco smoke have a higher likelihood of developing asthma.

What causes or triggers an asthma attack?

Individuals who have asthma become allergic to one or more indoor or outdoor pollutants that can trigger an asthma attack. Examples of common triggers are pet dander, cockroach droppings, house dust mites, tobacco smoke, fungi or molds, and viruses. When a person with asthma comes into contact with a trigger, the lungs become irritated, airways swell, and mucus builds up. This can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain or tightness, or a combination of these symptoms. That reaction is an asthma episode or attack. Getting rid of triggers will reduce asthma attacks in people who are sensitive to them.

Can asthma be controlled?

Asthma is an individualized condition and some forms of it can be difficult to manage. Although it may take a while to learn how to best manage an individual’s asthma, research shows that having a written individual asthma management plan, using the right asthma medicine, and working to avoid triggers helps people control their asthma.

Can a child with asthma participate in sports and games?

Yes. The child’s asthma management plan should address how to manage asthma while physically active. This often includes taking prescribed maintenance and preventive medications prior to participation in physical activities and sports.

What can you do about asthma?

In the end successful management of asthma depends on the efforts of the person who has asthma and his or her family. However, managing your own asthma or the asthma experienced by someone you love can sometimes be difficult to do. Many people are not sure that they have asthma or do not understand what is needed to live well if they do have it. Sometimes people who have asthma do not consider it a chronic medical condition that requires ongoing care.

Good asthma care is a team effort. It requires a strong working relationship between the patient and physician. If the patient is a child, this relationship also includes parents, family, and the child’s school nurse. The asthma "team" works together regularly to solve problems, review medications, check the effectiveness of the asthma management plan, and develop strategies to get the asthma under control. Sometimes this requires trying several things before finding the way that works best.

Where can I go to get more information about asthma?

You can ask your physician for information or read about it on the web. Here are a few locations on the web that may be helpful.