According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 13 Americans have asthma. More than 50% of asthma is found in children. Asthma affects more than 7 million children in the United States.
Coughing and wheezing are the most common symptoms of asthma, which occurs especially at night. Asthma triggers include inhalant irritants like perfume or tobacco smoke, inhalant allergens like pets and pollen, viral infections like the common cold, exercise and cold air or weather changes.
Risk factors for asthma are tobacco smoke exposure, having other allergic diseases like eczema and pet and pollen allergies, a family history of asthma, living in an urban city with increased air pollution, obesity, reflux, being male and being African American.
During the Winter, the cold dry air and upper respiratory tract infections can worsen asthma symptoms. To minimize asthma attacks in this weather, it is important to get the flu vaccine, keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose when outdoors, replace heating system filters, exercise indoors, wash your hands, and stay away from sick people. It is also very important to regularly take your prescribed asthma medication, which may consist of inhaled steroids, combination steroid/ long acting beta-agonist, and//or montelukast and make sure these medications and your rescue albuterol inhaler are not expired.
About 25 million Americans who have asthma also have allergies. For people with allergic asthma, winter is a critical time to avoid irritants and indoor allergens like dust and pet dander. It is also a time to optimize treatment for pollen, dust, and other environmental allergies which may include receiving allergen immunotherapy or allergy shots. Other new asthma treatment options include Xolair (omalizumab) and Nucala (mepolizumab) which are FDA approved to specifically treat allergic asthma. Children as young as 6 years old can now receive Xolair to help with asthma with an allergic trigger. Xolair blocks Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is an antibody in your body that plays a key role in the allergic response in allergic asthma. Nucala can be ministered to children as young as 12 years old. Nucala reduces levels of a certain type of white blood cell called eosinophils that may contribute to lung inflammation found allergic asthma.
If you think you or a family member may have asthma or your asthma is not well- controlled with your current medications, be sure to consult with your physician or an asthma specialist as soon as possible.