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Facts about Asthma

Asthma Center


Facts about Asthma

Asthma can be controlled...You can do it!  When you know how to control asthma, it no longer controls you.

What is Asthma?

When You Have Asthma
It is important to:

Know Your Symptoms

Do you feel this way sometimes? Any one of these symptoms may mean that you have asthma. You can have one or more of these symptoms or even different ones. Symptoms are clues that let you know that you are having an asthma attack.

What Starts Your Symptoms?
Usually symptoms get started or "triggered" by something that bothers your lungs. These things are called asthma triggers.

There are many kinds of triggers. They can range from viruses (such as colds) to allergies, to gases and particles in the air.

Given this range, you may find it hard to figure out what starts your asthma attacks. You may even think your attacks "just happen"  but this is generally not true. Something usually triggers an attack.

So what's the good news in all of this?

Once you find out your triggers, you can do something to prevent your asthma attacks. This gives you control The result is that when and if you have attacks, there's a good chance that they will be less severe and you won't have as many.

For example, do you get an asthma attack after you've exercised?  If you do, you should see a doctor. You can get help. You can still exercise when you have asthma, but you may need to take rest breaks while you exercise. If you know that exercise triggers your asthma, the doctor may tell you to take your asthma medicine before you exercise. This way, you can still have fun exercising without having an asthma attack.

There are other asthma triggers that you can get rid of or avoid. Good examples of these triggers are cold air, dust, feathers or molds.

Cigarette smoking is another trigger that must be avoided. If you smoke, you need to quit. Smoking cigarettes will make your asthma worse, and if you breathe the smoke from someone else's cigarette, you may get an asthma attack. This is true for children, too. In fact, children are especially at risk when they breathe secondhand smoke. Studies show that children of smokers are more likely to suffer asthma attacks. Their asthma gets worse, too.

But you can do something about this. You can protect yourself (and if you're a parent with a child who has asthma, you can protect your child, too) when you know the risks of smoking cigarettes or breathing secondhand smoke. The wisest and healthiest things you can do are to live, work and play in places that are smoke free.


An Asthma Attack

Doctors are not exactly certain how you get asthma. But they do know that once you have it, your lungs react to things that can start an asthma attack. For instance, when you have asthma, you might get an asthma attack when you have a cold (or some other kind of respiratory infection). Or, you might get an attack when you breathe something that bothers your lungs (such as cigarette smoke, dust or feathers).

When this happens, three changes take place in your lungs:

These changes cause the air tubes to narrow. This makes it hard to breathe.

Asthma attacks may start suddenly. Or they may take a long time, even days, to develop. Attacks can be severe, moderate or mild.

Severe Attacks. When these happen, you may become breathless. As you're less and less able to breathe, you may have trouble talking. Your neck muscles may become tight as you breathe. Your lips and fingernails might have a grayish or bluish color. The skin around the ribs of your chest might be sucked in.

In case of a severe asthma attack:

Moderate and Mild Attacks.

These attacks are more common. You may start to feel tight in your chest. You might start coughing or spit up mucus. You may feel restless or have trouble sleeping. You might make a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe. This can happen as you breathe air in and out of your narrowed air tubes.

What should you do in the case of a moderate or mild asthma attack?  Take your asthma medicine. Usually then the air tubes in your lungs open up in minutes. Sometimes, though, it can take several hours. Ask your doctor how long it takes for the medicine to work.

If your medicine does not work in the time it is supposed to - call your doctor.

The Second Wave. In some cases, your asthma attack may seem to ease up. But, changes may take place in your air tubes that cause another attack or second wave. This can be more severe and more dangerous than the first attack.

In the second wave, the air tubes continue to swell. This may happen even when you're not having asthma symptoms. At this time, you might find it harder to breathe.

The second wave may last for days or even weeks after the first attack. Your lungs become more sensitive to other irritants. This can trigger more attacks. During the second wave, you may have to be admitted to a hospital. Doctors need to take care of your asthma and give you medicines that will reduce the swelling in your air tubes and relax the tightened muscles.

In any kind of asthma attack:

Asthma Medicines

Asthma medicines keep the air tubes in your lungs open.

There are two groups of asthma medicines:

These medicines are sold under many brand names. They come in different forms, too They can include sprays, pills, powders, liquids and shots. The doctor chooses the medicine and form that will work best for you.

Let's take a closer look at how these medicines can help you.

First, bronchodilators. These medicines give you relief during an asthma attack. Bronchodilators work to relax the muscles in your air tubes. As this happens, your air tubes open up, making it easier for you to breathe.

Anti-inflammatories, on the other hand, work to keep your air tubes open all of the time so that you don't have an asthma attack in the first place. These medicines reduce the swelling in your air tubes and decrease the mucus. Cromolyn and nedocromil are two examples of anti-inflammatory medicines. Another example is corticosteroids.

When you hear the word "steroid" you might think of the steroids used by athletes. This may worry you if you have heard about problems and side effects athletes have when taking steroids. But corticosteroids are not the steroids used by athletes. Those steroids are called "anabolic steroids."

Remember that corticosteroids are used to help prevent asthma attacks from starting. When you take this medicine in a spray form, the risk of serious side effects is very little, if any at all. The chance of serious side effects increases only when these medicines are taken in a pill or liquid form over a long period. In that case, you need to get regular checkups by a doctor to make sure that the medicine works the best way for you.

Let's talk about side effects for a moment. Every kind of medicine, even aspirin, can have some side effects. But a doctor can help you by finding ways to control side effects. But a doctor can help you by finding ways to control side effects. When it comes to asthma medicines, it is important to check regularly with a doctor to make sure that these medicines are helping you. Sometimes you may have some side effects, such as a sore throat, nervousness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, loss of appetite, or staying awake. Tell a doctor if you feel this way. The doctor may want to change your dose, or try a different asthma medicine. The purpose of asthma medicine is to help you feel better and control your asthma so that you an do what you want to do without asthma getting in your way.

One final note on medicines. There is another kind of treatment that can be important to you if your asthma attacks get started by allergies. This treatment is called hyposensitization therapy or allergy shots. These shots may be helpful to you in preventing your asthma attacks.

On the other hand, the kinds of things that you do are just as important as the kinds of medicines that you take. You can help yourself when you try to avoid or get rid of the things that make you allergic, such as dust, feathers or animal fur. By going this, you really take control and make it possible for your asthma medicines to work successfully.

The Doctor's Role

The doctor's role in asthma care begins with your diagnosis. Once a doctor decides that you have asthma, then you and the doctor can work together to control it. During the diagnosis, a doctor will take your medical history, give you a physical checkup and do some lab tests. These tests may include a chest x-ray, blood and allergy tests, and lung-function tests.

The lung-function tests may involve such things as spirometry and peak flow monitoring. In spirometry, you blow into a device called a spirometer, which measures the air you breathe in and out of your lungs. In peak flow monitoring, you blow into a device, called a peak flow meter, which measures the greatest amount of air that you can exhale. Both spirometry and peak flow monitoring tests can help the doctor decide whether or not you have asthma.

Once the doctor decides that you do, indeed, have asthma, then medical treatment can start. This means that the doctor chooses the best asthma medicines at the right dose for you. The doctor, too, may recommend that you start using a peak flow meter at home. Ask your doctor about this. Peak flow meters are easy to use by yourself every day. These devices can help you to know if your breathing problems are starting even when you don't feel any asthma symptoms. That way, you know when to take your asthma medicine before your symptoms get worse.

After you start taking your asthma medicines, you need to see a doctor on a regular basis - not just when you're having problems. That way the doctor can make certain your medicines are working well.

The doctors needs to know if:

There is no need for you to suffer. Once you talk with a doctor, you may find that a change in your asthma medicines is all that is needed to help you feel better.

So talk regularly to a doctor about your asthma. There are many things that can start asthma and asthma can change, sometimes getting better or worse. You may find that your medicines need to be changed. Or, new medicines may be available that will work even better for you.

Your Role

There are three things that you need to do to control your asthma. If you've read this far, then you know at least two of them already!

First: See a doctor regularly about your asthma. This is important because your symptoms can change over time. Your triggers can change, too. You may need different medicines to help keep you health. So regular contact with a doctor is an important part of controlling your asthma.

Second: Take your asthma medicines as the doctor has prescribed, even when you feel well. That way, you keep breathing problems from happening.

Third: Get educated about asthma. Find out what triggers it and what you must do to stay healthy. In fact, everyone in your family should know about asthma and know what to do when you need help.

Misconceptions About Asthma



Asthma is shrouded in mystery and misconception. The mystery reflects the ongoing efforts of scientists to better understand this disease. The misconception represents outdated or overly dramatic images of asthma. If you've ever read Lord of the Flies, or seen the movie, you might remember Piggy, the pudgy, bespectacled boy who can't keep up with the pack because of his asthma. Perhaps you've seen a TV program that shows someone with asthma suddenly start to wheeze and then use an inhaler for immediate resolution. Or maybe you've heard that asthma is mostly a childhood disease that many outgrow.



Recent advances have put a new face on asthma. Scientists have shown that this condition is caused by inflammation, the same process that makes a sprained ankle swell. Preventing inflammation by avoiding the things that trigger it and/or by blocking it with drugs can help people with asthma to have relatively mild symptoms and few, if any, full-blown asthma attacks. New drugs that target inflammation — some delivered by inhalers, some in pill form — can ease asthma symptoms and help to limit the side effects of older drugs, such as heart palpitations and nausea.



Overall, the goal of managing and treating asthma is to make it easier for you to lead a normal, healthy life. Managing your asthma even when you don't have symptoms will help keep you out of the emergency room and minimize long-term damage to your lungs.,IHC|~st,3457|~r,EMIHC245|~b,*|&d=dmtContent


Egg Allergy Alert For Tartar Sauce

(Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) -- The Carriage House Companies, of Fredonia, New York, is recalling 5,500 cases of Food Club brand Tartar Sauce in 8-oz. glass jars due to undeclared eggs.,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC245|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews


Peanut Allergy Alert For Fancy Candy Platter

(Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) -- J and D Fine Foods of Brooklyn New York, is recalling its 'Fancy Candy Platter' sold in 28-oz. plastic trays, because they may contain undeclared peanuts.,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC245|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews


Inhaled Asthma Drugs More Effective Than Oral Therapy

(British Medical Journal) -- Inhaled glucocorticoid drugs are more effective than the newer anti-leukotriene tablets for adults with mild or moderate asthma, concludes a study in this week's BMJ.,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC245|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews


An Aetna InteliHealth/Harvard Medical School Look At The News -- Treating Asthma

(British Medical Journal) -- Inhaled glucocorticoid drugs are more effective than the newer anti-leukotriene tablets for adults with mild or moderate asthma, concludes a study in this week's BMJ. Read the story and comments from a Harvard physician.,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC245|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

Asthma Treatment Strategy Shows Promise

An asthma treatment that targets the inflammation rather than just reacting to symptoms could be more effective in reducing severe attacks, new research suggests.

Treating Acid Reflux Reduces Asthma Symptoms And Improves Quality Of Life In Patients With Asthma

The daily use of medications to treat acid reflux, proton pump inhibitors (PPI), reduces asthma exacerbations and improves general well-being of asthma patients with symptoms of acid reflux. A study presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology found that the use of a proton pump inhibitor along with asthma medications improved reflux symptoms, as well as improving reported quality of life. Fewer patients taking PPIs had at least one asthma exacerbation with PPI vs. placebo.
Source: American College of Gastroenterology,

U. Of Wisconsin To Study Asthma In Kids

The University of Wisconsin Medical School has been awarded a six-year, .8 million contract to study methods of reducing asthma among inner-city children.

EPA Plans More Asthma Research

Environmental pollutants that contribute to asthma are the target of a new research plan issued Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Agency Will Track Kids' Diseases For Environmental Link

The state Department of Public Health has won a .4 million federal grant to establish a registry to track cases of pediatric asthma, lupus and developmental problems in children, with an eye to linking them with environmental causes.

Tokyo Court Orders Government To Pay Damages For Asthma Caused By Auto Exhaust

A group of Japanese asthma sufferers who say Tokyo air pollution made them sick won a 79.20 million yen (US,000) lawsuit against the national government and highway authority on Tuesday.

Children With Asthma Are Often Exposed to Smoke and Pets

Children with asthma are often sensitive to allergens, such as pet dander and tobacco smoke, but researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that many parents of asthmatic children continue to expose their children to smoke and allow pets to live in the home.

Managing Asthma Across The Lifespan

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than 17 million Americans. Characterized by coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing, asthma is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood, affecting nearly 5 million children in the United States.

Green Acres Keep Kids Asthma-Free

Study backs 'hygiene hypothesis' in epidemic of asthma and allergies

Asthma In Kids Can Be Controlled

Expert says ways to manage it are at fingertips, but often not used.

New Research On Gender And The Development Of Asthma

Males are more likely to develop asthma as children, while females more commonly develop asthma after the age of 30, according to a study in the August Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). This information is important because the age of asthma onset has implications for asthma severity. The JACI is the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Asthma May Have Leveled Off In Kids

Asthma rates may have leveled off in U.S. children after increasing in the 1980s and early 1990s, government research shows.

The Puzzling Red Wine Headache
For some people, a glass of red wine is an invitation to a roaring headache. After a few such episodes, which usually include a feeling of queasiness, those who suffer them may banish wine from their tables for life.

Is Your Home Causing Your Child's Asthma Attack?

Two of the most common contributors to severe asthma symptoms are present in many, many homes. Is yours one of them? Learn how to reduce exposure to these irritants for your children -- and for yourself.

Asthma Kills Woman Near Colorado Fire

A woman's death three days after the start of Colorado's largest wildfire has been blamed on a severe asthma attack brought on by smoke, the first death directly related to the blaze.

Students Join Scientists In Search Of Asthma Triggers

Students and teachers of more than 20 Baltimore, Md., middle and high schools will be helping NASA scientists, and doctors and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine to better understand the causes of pediatric asthma in Baltimore City. The students will be gathering data on aerosol particles that will help experts track particulates in relation to incidence of asthma.
Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center,

California Examines Micro-Pollution

California could have the world's strictest standards for the emission of dangerous microscopic pollutants under revisions being considered by the state Air Resources Board.

EPA To Relax Utility Pollution Rules

A Bush administration decision to let some coal-burning power plants escape costly pollution controls is intended to help keep electric bills in check, but environmentalists say it will increase smog and contribute to asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Asthma Isn't Only A Childhood Disease

While asthma is commonly thought of as a 'childhood disease,' it can also be diagnosed as a new condition in older people. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, approximately six to ten percent of older adults in the United States may have asthma.

Update On National Asthma Guidelines Released

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, has issued an update of selected topics in the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. The guidelines now recommend inhaled corticosteroids as safe, effective and preferred first-line therapy for children as well as adults with persistent asthma. The update continues to recommend a "step-wise" approach to asthma management -- in which treatment is adjusted depending on disease severity -- but it modifies specific treatment recommendations at each step to reflect research over the last five years.

Tomato Pies Recalled Over Milk

A Pennsylvania company is recalling tomato pies sold in four states after a child suffered a serious allergic reaction to milk not listed on the product's label.

Gardening: Plants That Allergy Sufferers Should Avoid

Gardeners and golfers beware, pollen is in the air. Although hay fever can indeed be caused by hay - grasses - there are other culprits, and there are steps a gardener can take to minimize suffering from allergies caused by plants.

Haze From Canadian Wildfires Lingers Over Northeast; Health Advisories Issued

Northeastern states advised people with heart trouble or breathing problems to avoid the outdoors because of a smoky haze hanging over the region from forest fires burning hundreds of miles away in Canada.

Asthma Airway Remodeling Starts In Childhood And Continues Into Adulthood

Airway remodeling in asthma, which, over time, slowly becomes less reversible and manifests itself in impaired lung function, begins in childhood and continues into adult life, according to Canadian and New Zealand researchers.
Source: American Thoracic Society,

Breaking The Mold: Toxic Growth In Homes, Offices Allegedly Making People Weak, Sick

Raising the specter of a modern-day black plague, tales of toxic mold have spread through the suburban landscape.

Too Many Patients Diagnosed With 'Psychogenic Cough'

Since over 23 percent of patients with a persistent, troublesome cough who are referred to a cough specialist are diagnosed with 'psychogenic cough,' experts caution physicians to resist this diagnosis initially.
Source: American Thoracic Society,

The Perils Of Pollen: Global Warming May Make Things Worse

For allergy sufferers, the amount of carbon dioxide swirling around in Earth's atmosphere will be nothing to sneeze at 50 years from now if levels continue to rise at the present rate, say a group of Harvard University researchers.

Experimental Therapy Stops Allergic Reactions In Mice

Scientists supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have devised a new, experimental approach to treating allergic diseases. In mice, the scientists used a genetically engineered molecule to connect two receptors on the key immune system cells that cause allergic reactions. Cross-linking these receptor molecules short-circuited the type of allergic reaction that leads to asthma, allergic rhinitis, and even the potentially deadly anaphylaxis caused by food allergy.

Population Breathing Bad Air

Half the country's population is breathing unhealthy amounts of air pollution, according to a survey by the American Lung Association.

Panel Pushes Asthma Campaign

With childhood asthma rates reaching an epidemic level, a committee of experts has recommended the launching of a national asthma public education campaign and stepped-up asthma programs in schools.

Gearing Up For The Allergy Seasons: New And Old Treatments For Allergies And Asthma

Now is the time to get ready for allergy season. Allergic rhinitis is nothing to sneeze at -- billions of dollars are spent every year just for the drugs, and it is one of the leading reasons why people call in sick to work.

Raising An Asthmatic Child

Parents of children with a chronic disease, such as asthma, face unique challenges as they balance caring for a sick child, responding to healthy siblings and handling health emergencies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

pH Offers Simple Test For Airway Inflammation

The pH of expired breath condensate offers a simple, noninvasive, inexpensive, and easily repeatable procedure to evaluate the inflammatory process in airway diseases. A pH test is a measure of the acidity of a solution, with a pH of 7 being neutral.
Source: American Thoracic Society,

Report Finds Smog A Killer In L.A. County

An estimated 3,500 people a year die in Los Angeles County from the effects of inhaling fine smog particles, a national environmental group claims in a report to be released today.

Obesity And Smoking Increase Asthma Risk

Extremely overweight people and smokers are more likely to report having asthma than their thinner, non-smoking counterparts, according to a study to be presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Atlanta.
Source: American Thoracic Society

Pets And Parental Family History Increase The Risk Of Developing Asthma

Having furry pets or a family history of allergic disease increase the risk of developing asthma in adulthood, according to a study in the May Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

New Zealand Researchers To Test Theory That Rural Environment Provides Resistance To Asthma

Researchers at a New Zealand state university are planning to test a theory that children who live on farms build up natural resistance to asthma.

Tepid Temperatures Speed Allergy Season

There's something in the spring air, and it's making lots of people miserable.

Study Links Single Molecule To Body's Healing Process

Reporting in the April 5 issue of Science, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers have found that a common molecule plays a key role in reducing inflammation of injured tissue. The findings could lead to new treatments for asthma or other types of lung inflammation.
Source: VA Research Communications Service,

Treating Conditions Associated With Asthma Reduces Emergency Department Visits

Using intranasal steroids to treat asthmatics who also have upper airway conditions reduces the risk of emergency room visits for asthma attacks, according to a study in the April Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Treating Seasonal Allergies Early Keeps Children Healthy Now, In Future

Treating allergic rhinitis as soon as symptoms occur can help children do better in school and could prevent long-term complications, such as the development of asthma or earaches, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

AAAAI Sponsors Poster Contest For Children With Asthma

More than five million children have asthma, but it doesn't have to keep them on the sidelines. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) wants to know what these children are doing so they enjoy healthy, active lives.

Medications for Children

Children use the same medications for asthma as adults. The amount and type of medication your child will need depends on the severity of the asthma.

Seasonal Allergies

Are seasonal allergies making you sneeze? Visit our Allergy Zone for tips about treatments.

Allergens And Viruses Act Together To Worsen Asthma

Common allergens (such as dust mite and grass pollen) and viruses may act together to exacerbate asthma, concludes a study in this week's BMJ. British Medical Journal

Home Cat Allergen Concentrations Relate To Asthmatic Disease

The first prospective epidemiologic study to demonstrate a relationship between cat allergen concentrations in the home and asthmatic disease among sensitized women was carried out in 458 Boston, Massachusetts mothers. American Thoracic Society

U.S. Asthma Rates May Be Declining

Asthma rates in the United States may be leveling off or even declining after rising steadily since the 1980s, federal health officials said.


Antioxidant may protect against asthma

Lycopene, a natural antioxidant found in many ripe fruits including tomatoes, seems to reduce the risk of exercise-induced asthma in some patients, Israeli researchers report in the December issue of Allergy.

Altered gene linked to allergic reactions and asthma

People with allergies and asthma are more likely than their peers to have a specific variation in the gene for a cell-signaling chemical, researchers

Asthma, allergies may be triggered by the holidays

Asthma can be fatal, and some familiar elements of the holiday season--including wood smoke, Christmas trees and scented candles--could trigger a potentially deadly episode, experts warn.

Asthmatic children see doctor less when parents smoke

Secondhand smoke may cause significant health effects in asthmatic children. Yet asthmatic children whose parents are heavy smokers are less likely to visit a doctor for their disease, regardless of social class, according to a new report.

Losing a few pounds helps obese asthmatics

Even dropping only a few pounds can ease breathing difficulties in overweight people who have asthma, Finnish researchers report. Doctors have known for a long time that asthma and obesity are linked.

Mouse allergy ups asthma risk among inner-city youth

The higher rates of asthma among inner-city children may be caused in part by mice, results of two new studies suggest. According to the reports, mouse allergens (allergy-causing substances) in the form of urine or dander were more prevalent in inner-city homes than dust mites and cat allergens, which can also contribute to asthma.

Work may trigger one third of asthma cases

On-the-job exposure to agents such as flour, paints, solvents and pesticides may be more likely to lead to adult-onset asthma than previously thought, a new report suggests.

Antibiotics for babies linked to asthma later in life

We've suspected for a while that a young child whose immune system doesn't get to fight infection might be more likely to develop asthma later in life. This study looked at antibiotic use in the first year of life, and found a significant association with asthma and allergies by age 7 or 8.

American Lung Association and 3M Offer Free Booklet with Even More Helpful Hints (5/3/99)

The onset of the spring and summer months means increased misery for many of the estimated 40 million Americans who live with allergies and the estimated 17 million with asthma. But according to the American Lung Association, hibernating indoors doesn't offer much relief, since pollen and other allergens can easily enter the home by way of clothing, open doors and room air conditioners.

In fact, allergy and asthma sufferers may experience even worse symptoms indoors. That's because studies conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that levels of indoor air pollutants - including allergens - may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. As a result, the EPA has identified indoor air pollution as one of the five most urgent environmental risks to public health.

Fortunately, there are many simple steps that can reduce exposure to pollutants triggering asthma and allergy symptoms at home. In recognition of the American Lung Association's Breathe Easy® Month in May, here are 31 tips from the association's Health House Project - one for each day of the month - to help provide much-needed relief from the sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes:

1. If you must keep pets, bathe and groom them often and minimize their access to carpeted areas and bedrooms of anyone in the house with allergies and asthma. Pet dander (minute scales of animal skin) is a known allergen.

2. Window coverings are magnets for dust. Use window shades made of plastic, wood or other washable materials for easy cleaning.

3. Mold can be found in the soil of houseplants - so check them often. If mold growth is evident, the plants may need to be re-potted or kept outdoors.

4. Prohibit smoking in the home.

5. Keep humidity levels low with a dehumidifier or air conditioner. Clean both regularly so they don't become pollution sources.

6. Consider using a high efficiency vacuum bag, like a Filtrete vacuum filter bag, or install a central vacuum system if your home has a chronic dust problem.

7. Keep trees and shrubs at least 3 feet away from the perimeter of a home. Tree and shrub roots can give surface water an easy route into a basement, which can lead to mold growth.

8. Consider using a high efficiency air filter, like a Filtrete filter from 3M, in your central heating or air conditioning system.

9. Keep windows closed to avoid outside pollen and other allergens from getting in. Turn your air conditioning on so the air in your home circulates and passes through your air filter.

10. Regularly change furnace and air conditioning filters every two or three months, or as required by the manufacturer.

11. Avoid touching your nose and eyes and transferring pollen to them.

12. Wash bedding weekly in hot water - at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit - to help control dust mites.

13. Control cockroaches and other insects. Dead roaches and cockroach droppings can collect in house dust and are often difficult to remove. Clean your home thoroughly and exterminate as necessary.

14. Clean bathrooms, kitchens and basements regularly to eliminate indoor molds.

15. Place allergen-impermeable covers over mattresses and pillows. Do not use feather pillows and down comforters.

16. Make sure your home's roof and windows are in good shape. Moisture in interior wall spaces can encourage mold growth.

17. Remove water-damaged carpeting. It can lead to mold growth.

18. Refrain from using harsh-smelling products such as perfumes, room deodorizers, cleaning agents, paint and even talcum powder. These can trigger an allergic reaction.

19. Maintain and clean your humidifiers and de-humidifiers on a regular basis, as they can be breeding grounds for mold and bacteria.

20. Wood smoke is a problem for children and adults with asthma and allergies. Avoid wood stoves and fireplaces.

21. If allergic to dust mites, don't sleep or lie down on upholstered (stuffed) furniture.

22. Clean up surface dust as often as possible.

23. Use a damp mop or damp cloth when cleaning. Don't use aerosols or spray cleaners in the bedroom.

24. Remove stuffed animals (unless they can be washed) and anything under the bed.

25. Don't clean or vacuum a room when someone with allergies or asthma is present.

26. Don't permit recycling items such as newspapers, rags, cans and bottles to accumulate in your living space. Store them in a covered area outdoors and recycle frequently.

27. Use a dust mask when vacuuming to reduce exposure to allergens.

28. Keep a diary of when you suffer an allergy and/or asthma attack. This may help to identify triggers - such as cold air, perfume, paint, etc. - which in turn can be avoided.

29. Never store more than a few pieces of firewood indoors. Drying firewood can generate mold spores which can easily contaminate an entire house.

30. Use short nap carpeting whenever possible. Area rugs and carpets that can be removed for frequent cleaning may be the best choice.

31. Use low-toxic cleaning products whenever available. Always follow manufacturers' instructions.

As part of an ongoing educational partnership, 3M and the American Lung Association Health House Project are offering a booklet, "A Guide for Creating a Healthier Home," filled with many more tips to reduce exposure to pollutants and allergens. To obtain a copy free-of-charge, call 1-800-388-3458 or send an e-mail with your name and mailing address to:

The American Lung Association has been fighting lung disease for more than 90 years. With the generous support of the public and the help of volunteers, the association has seen many advances against lung disease. Along with its medical section, the American Thoracic Society, the association provides programs of education, community service, advocacy and research. For more information, please call 1-800-LUNG-USA or visit their website at

The Health House Project, a national education project, is raising the standards for healthier indoor environments through its national demonstration homes, training programs for consumers and builders, and educational partnerships and alliances. The Health House Project is developed and managed by the American Lung Association of Minnesota, in cooperation with participating local Lung Associations. For more information, visit their website at

Who is Vulnerable?

Millions of Americans live in areas where the air carries not only life-giving oxygen, but also noxious pollutants that reach unhealthful levels, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, fine particles,sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, or lead.

Exercise makes us more vulnerable to health damage from these pollutants. We breathe more air during exercise or strenuous work. We draw air more deeply into the lungs. And when we exercise heavily, we breathe mostly through the mouth, bypassing the body's first line of defense against pollution, the nose.

The connection between air pollution and exercise should concern all of us, especially:

People who already are especially vulnerable to air pollution are even more vulnerable when exercising or engaging in strenuous work. These people include:

How Air Pollution Affects Your Body

Our lungs are among the body's primary points of contact with the outside world. We may drink two liters of liquid each day. We breathe in an estimated 15,000 liters of air, approximately 6 to 10 liters every minute, drawing life-giving oxygen across 600 to 900 square feet of surface area in tiny sacs inside the lung.

Oxygen is necessary for our muscles to function. In fact, the purpose of exercise training is to improve the body's ability to deliver oxygen. As a result, when we exercise, we may increase our intake of air by as much as ten times our level at rest.

An endurance athlete can process as much as twenty times the normal intake. Mouth breathing during exercise bypasses the nasal passages, the body's natural air filter.

These facts mean that when we exercise in polluted air, we increase our contact with the pollutants, and increase our vulnerability to health damage.

The interaction between air pollution and exercise is so strong that health scientists typically use exercising volunteers in their research. Research has found that air pollution can reduce breathing ability, cause chest pain, coughing, wheezing and other physical irritation.

Air pollution can interfere with the workings of the lungs, heart and other organs. It can aggravate asthma and other chronic lung and heart diseases, can weaken the lung's defenses against infection and may cause lung diseases.

In pregnant women the fetus is especially vulnerable to the effects of the mother's inhalation of carbon monoxide.

Minimize Your Risk

The news isn't all bad. You can minimize your exposure to air pollution by being aware of pollution and by following some simple guidelines:

1. Watch The Calendar

Ozone smog tends to be worst during the May-to-September "smog season." Be especially conscious of smog levels during warm weather. In warm areas, smog can be a problem at any time of the year. Carbon monoxide pollution levels also are related to the weather, as well as to altitude. In the western U.S., the highest carbon monoxide levels are found in the winter months.

2. Watch The Clock

Since sunlight and time are necessary for ozone smog formation, the highest levels of ozone typically occur during the afternoon. Since carbon monoxide is produced primarily by motor vehicles, the highest carbon monoxide levels usually occur during rush hour or during other traffic congestion situations.

3. Watch The News

Pollution levels are often given with weather reports and printed in newspapers. Pollution control officials often can predict when pollution levels will be high.

Charting Air Quality

Local officials use a simple scale to forecast and report on smog levels and other air pollution. Depending on where you live, it might be called Air Quality Index (AQI) or Pollutant Standards Index (PSI).

Current air quality is reported as a percentage of the federal health standard for a pollutant. If the current index is above 100, air pollution exceeds the level considered safe.

At ozone smog levels above 100, children, asthmatics and other sensitive groups should limit strenuous exercise. Even otherwise healthy people should consider limiting vigorous exercise when ozone levels are at or above the health standard.

If the index is above 200, corresponding to an ozone pollution level of 0.20 parts per million (ppm), the pollution level is judged unhealthy for everyone. At this level, air pollution is a serious health concern. Everyone should avoid strenuous outdoor activity, as respiratory tract irritation can occur.

Children: A Special Risk

Children are especially vulnerable to pollution-caused lung problems during exercise because:

Caution For Children

When ozone levels reach a national PSI level of 200 (0.20 parts per million), exercising children outdoors experience respiratory irritation and a decline in lung function. Therefore, they should avoid calisthenics, soccer, tag, running, competitive swimming, basketball, tennis and other strenuous exercise outdoors.

Substitute activities considered safer include recreational swimming, archery, swings and horseback riding.

Should the ozone level reach a national PSI reading of 235 (0.275 ppm), all outdoor sports and games involving physical activity should be suspended as significant respiratory tract irritation is likely to occur at this ozone level.

Learn the Do's and Don'ts

If you live in an area susceptible to air pollution, here's what you should do:

Don't do the following:

Frequently Asked Questions

About Allergies and Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness, wheezing and/or coughing caused by narrowing of the airways leading to the lungs. All levels of severity are serious. Asthma can be deadly if not treated properly. Over 5500 people each year die from asthma.

An allergy is an unusual reaction to normally harmless substances (allergens) that contact the body surfaces. These surfaces include the eyes, nose, lungs, stomach, and skin.

This page describes some of the common symptoms and triggers involved with allergies and asthma. These are brief guidelines. Discuss the treatment of your allergies and asthma with your health-care professional.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, the diagnosis could be asthma:

In addition, these symptoms or conditions are sometimes associated with asthma:

Is there a pattern to the symptoms?:

Symptoms may be triggered by:

Asthma can be controlled!

With a customized Asthma Management Plan (AMP) developed by you and your physician, you and your family can lead an active, healthy life. Your AMP is your action plan giving you power over your symptoms. Every AMP will include specific steps to take for:


If asthma symptoms keep you on a roller coaster of good times and bad, then you need an asthma specialist such as an allergist or pulmonologist to give you a plan for recovery. Recovery can take weeks or months depending on how diligent you are in working with your physician.


Once you have achieved long term control of symptoms, you will need a plan for preventing a relapse.

Early Intervention

You will need another plan for stopping an attack as it approaches - at the earliest possible moment. This is the early intervention plan.

Crisis Management

Do you think all asthma crises happen on the way to the hospital? Learn how to identify and handle an asthma crisis at home. Your asthma specialist can teach you.

Common Allergy Symptoms

Is there a pattern to the symptoms?

Common allergens

Talk with your physician about your asthma and allergy symptoms and treatments. Don't suffer in silence. Allergies and asthma can be controlled.


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Asthma affects over seven percent of the people in the US and has caused more hospital admissions, more visits to emergency rooms and more school/work absences than any other chronic disease and.

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