Breathe Easy: Reducing and Treating Asthma

Maria, who grew up on a farm in Puerto Rico, moved to Los Angeles when she was just a baby. Soon, she began to have trouble catching her breath and breathing. When her mother took her to the clinic, the doctor there told her that Maria had asthma. He gave Maria some medication that she breathed in from an inhaler. The medicine helped her keep the asthma under control so she could live a close-to-normal life.

More Americans than ever have asthma.  It is one of our most common diseases, especially for Latinos who live in the inner cities. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Puerto Rican Hispanics have the highest rate of lifetime asthma of any racial or ethnic group, at 196 per 100,000 people, while Mexican Americans have the lowest, at 61 per 100,000 people.1 So asthma is a disease we, as Latinos, need to be aware of and concerned about.

Asthma is a disease in which the tubes that carry air to your lungs become blocked because the tubes swell up. The swelling is caused by a variety of triggers. Because the airways are blocked, you get symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing. Asthma can threaten your life if not properly managed. Although asthma affects people of all ages, the incidence of death increases with age and is rare among children.4  One thing is certain: anyone with asthma should be taught to manage it. Here's what we know and what you need to know:5

Asthma Facts:

  • If someone in your family has asthma, you are more likely to get it
  • Once you find out what triggers your attacks, try hard to stay away from that allergen, irritant, or activity (this may also result in your needing less medication)
  • Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
  • Prescription drugs are best for treating asthma. Quick-acting inhaled bronchodilators (bron-co-di-lators) and long-term inhaled corticosteroid (kor-ti-ko-ste-roid) medications reduce airway swelling. There are also steroid tablets or liquids that can be used to control long-term asthma.
  • If you stop taking long-term medications your asthma will likely get worse.
  • Carry your medication with you at all times in case you have an attack.
  • If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about the medication that is best for you.
  • Many medicines can get in the way of your asthma treatment, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription, over the counter, and herbal remedies.

Tips on caring for children with asthma from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (and these same concerns may well apply to the very elderly who are at a higher risk of death from an attack):

  • Young kids need help from their parents to keep asthma under control until the child is old enough to manage it on his or her own with less supervision
  • It's important to see a doctor for tests that can reveal specific asthma triggers so that these can be avoided.
  • Parents need to be alert for the signs of an asthma attack in young children, including coughing, sneezing, noisy breathing, so the parent can administer medicine when needed
  • Try to teach your child as soon as possible to use their inhaler without your help

Try not to let asthma get you down. Did you know that many Olympic Athletes have asthma?6 If you learn to manage it, asthma does not have to limit your lifestyle or activities with your family.

La información provista en este boletín/artículo tiene solamente fines educativos y no debe interpretarse como si fuera un consejo médico. Consulte a su médico acerca de cualquier cambio que pudiera afectar su salud.

Si tiene alguna pregunta, por favor comuníquese conmigo.

1 National Center for Health Statistics

2 American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

3 American Lung Association/Lung Disease Data in Culturally Diverse Communities 2005

4 The Centers for Disease Control

5 The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

6 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Asesoramiento médico para WellPoint:
Antonio Linares, MD, Regional Vice President, Medical Director
Ray Morales, MD, Regional Vice President, Medical Director