Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: May 2016 - Asthma

    May 18, 2016

    What is asthma?
    Asthma is a disease that affects the airways (or tubes) that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, you have it all the time; but, it’s when something irritates your airways that you will feel the symptoms.

    Asthma is the most common chronic (long-term) disease in children, but adults can have it as well. Asthma can be hard to diagnose, especially in children under 1 year of age. If other members of your family have asthma, it makes it more likely that you may have it too.

    What are the symptoms of an asthma attack?
    When something in the air irritates your airways, they swell and push in, shrinking the space through which air moves in and out of your lungs! Mucus that your body produces normally also clogs up the airways, making it difficult to breathe.

    Signs of asthma include coughing a lot, especially at night; shortness of breath after physical activity or during a certain time of the year; chest tightness or wheezing; or colds lasting more than 10 days. A doctor might use a lung function test, called spirometry, to measure and compare airflow before and after you take asthma medicine.

    The things that lead to an asthma attack, or “episode”, are called asthma triggers.

    What can trigger your asthma?
    Different people react to different things. Learn what your common asthma triggers are. They can include:

    • perfumes, chemical fumes, vapors, gases
    • dust, molds, tree pollen *†
    • weather extremes (too hot, too cold, too humid) or changes in the weather
    • second hand smoke
    • dust mites, cockroaches
    • irritants in the office (rugs, adhesives, ventilation systems)
    • some foods or additives
    • strenuous physical exercise
    • strong emotions (hyperventilation and lead to an asthma attack)

    When a trigger cannot be avoided, knowing your warning signs can help you manage an attack before it gets worse.

    * To learn more about how your city ranks for cleanest air, read the American Lung Association State of the Air 2016 Report
    † To keep track of the pollen count in your area.

    With your health-care provider’s help, make your own Asthma Action Plan so that you know what to do based on your own symptoms.

    How can asthma be treated?
    You can control your asthma and avoid an attack by taking your medicine exactly as your health-care provider tells you to, and by avoiding things that can cause an attack. Not everyone takes the same medications: some are inhaled, or breathed in, and some are pills.

    Asthma medicines come in two types:

    • Quick-relief (rescue) medicines help to quickly control the symptoms of an asthma attack.
    • Long-term (control) medicines help you prevent attacks, or have fewer and milder attacks. However, they won’t help if you’re having an asthma attack, because they work over a longer period of time. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.

    What is an Asthma Action Plan?
    The action plan looks at:

    • What triggers your asthma,
    • What helps you become aware of early asthma attack warning signs,
    • What you should take to feel better fast, or alert you that you should go to the ER.

    Be sure to share your (or your child’s) completed asthma action plan with school nurses, teachers, babysitters, family members and coworkers.

    Why should you treat your asthma?
    When you control your asthma:

    • you won’t wheeze or cough or struggle to breathe,
    • you’ll sleep better,
    • you won’t miss work or school,
    • you can take part in physical activities, and
    • you won’t have to go to the hospital.

    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:
    Remember, you CAN control your asthma. Know the warning signs of an attack, stay away from the things that trigger an attack, and take medication regularly as your doctor tells you to. Help protect yourself and those you love by learning how to prevent and treat asthma.

    To learn more:
    American Lung Association:

    Affinity’s Network Provider: Dr. Stanley Goldstein


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