American Lung Association Urges Americans Take Three Steps to Better Asthma Control During Asthma Awareness Month

This May, the American Lung Association urges people living with asthma and their caregivers to recognize asthma symptoms to improve school and work performance and put them on the road to better health.

Washington, D.C. (May 5, 2014)

May is Asthma Awareness Month. Over 25 million Americans, including 7 million children, suffer from this chronic disease. Patients who take three simple steps will achieve better health.

“Asthma is a common disease –affecting 1 in 12 Americans – and is associated with a number of misconceptions,” explained Barbara Kaplan, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., American Lung Association Director, Asthma Education. “Take for example the myth that children will eventually outgrow their disease. We need there to be greater awareness that asthma is a disease that is episodic, meaning that symptoms may improve over time, but it’s a disease that can last a lifetime.”

For a variety of reasons, including health care coverage, adults and children living with asthma may ignore their asthma symptoms and settle for coping with frequent flare-ups and ongoing breathing difficulties. A passive approach to managing asthma can lead to chronic absenteeism, poor performance at school or work, and an increased likelihood of having to be hospitalized for an asthma episode.

The American Lung Association recommends three simple steps to achieve better asthma control and greater quality of life.

  1. Establish a relationship with a health care provider
    Managing asthma requires working with a qualified health care professional. For some, the first step may be obtaining health care coverage. At minimum, people with asthma should see their health care provider once a year. Those with poorly controlled asthma should work with their health care provider to schedule follow-up visits more frequently.
  2. Know the Basics of Asthma
    Asthma and allergies often go hand-in-hand. It’s important for people with asthma to learn the basics of asthma and the steps for daily self-management. Being able to recognize signs and symptoms, and create asthma friendly environments where people live, work, go to school, and play can reduce the severity of an asthma flare-up and even help to avoid a visit to the emergency room.
  3. Have an Asthma Action Plan
    An Asthma Action Plan is an individualized worksheet that shows people with asthma the steps to take to prevent their asthma from getting worse. It also provides guidance on when to call a health care provider and when to seek immediate emergency care. The American Lung Association has a downloadable Asthma Action Plan (also available in Spanish) to use in partnership with a health care provider.

The risk of struggling with asthma symptoms without proper treatment can result in irreversible lung damage.

Norman Edelman, MD, Senior Medical Advisor for the American Lung Association, compares the disease to arthritis. "Arthritis causes swelling," he explains. "If you don't treat it, that swelling can permanently deform the joints. Asthma works the same way."

Amanda Keith, a 38-year-old mother did not have health insurance for most of her life. Up until five years ago, Amanda said, “I just coped with my symptoms hoping that I would get better, but overtime, my asthma got worse.”

Amanda now sees her doctor every three months and has a better grasp of her symptoms although she attributes the years of not having health insurance or access to adequate health care as the root cause of having lost 50 percent of her lung function.

“I know when to continue with my rescue inhaler and when I need to visit the emergency room,” explained Amanda. “Knowing which action to take means I suffer less by getting the right treatment faster. Above all, having insurance has dramatically improved and possibly even saved my life.”

The American Lung Association can help those without health insurance gain coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Certified counselors staff the Lung Helpline and can assist those navigating the health insurance system as well as those seeking support on how to take better control of their asthma.