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Health Condition

Asthma

About This Condition

Asthma is a lung disorder in which spasms and inflammation of the bronchial passages restrict the flow of air in and out of the lungs.

The number of people with asthma and the death rate from this condition have been increasing since the late 1980s. Environmental pollution may be one of the causes of this growing epidemic. Work exposure to flour or cotton dust, animal fur, smoke, and a wide variety of chemicals has been linked to increased risk of asthma.1

Findings from animal and human studies confirm that DTP (diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis) and tetanus vaccinations can induce allergic responses,2,3,4,5,6 and can increase the risk of allergies, including allergic asthma. An analysis of data from nearly 14,000 infants and children revealed that having a history of asthma is twice as great among those who were vaccinated with DTP or tetanus vaccines than among those who were not.7

Symptoms

An asthma attack usually begins with sudden fits of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath. However, it may also begin insidiously with slowly increasing manifestations of respiratory distress. A sensation of tightness in the chest is also common.

Other Therapies

Medical management of asthma includes controlling environmental factors that can trigger an attack (animal dander, dust mites, airborne molds and pollens, and certain foods).

Reducing Your Risk

To help keep you in top health, our experts recommend these steps:

  • Don’t overlook being overweight. It may not seem obvious that extra pounds mean more asthma, but the connection is real: being overweight significantly increases the risk of developing asthma. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
  • Factor in fish. Fish oil may help prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks. Enjoy fatty, cold-water fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, and cod, at least one to two times per week. If fish doesn’t regularly appear on your plate, consider fish oil supplements to get more omega-3 fats. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
  • Use antibiotics with care. Antibiotic use during the first one to two years of life may increase asthma risk. Do not mistakenly treat your little one’s viral infection with these drugs. Your doctor can help you tell the difference between bacterial infections—which do respond to antibiotics—and viral infections, which don’t. Select Medicines, above, for more information.
  • Mobilize your motivation. Knowing that being overweight increases asthma risk is great motivation to stay fit. A tool, such as a pedometer, to track daily steps taken, or other get-fit activities, can help you establish healthy habits and keep excess pounds at bay. Select Personal Care, above, for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.

Living With It

Our experts recommend the following tips to keep asthma under control, and to help you breathe easier:

  • Be alert to additives and allergies. For some people with asthma, certain food additives, such as sulfites and yellow dye #5, may worsen symptoms. Undiagnosed food allergies also may aggravate the condition. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
  • Ask about anti-inflammatories. Certain anti-inflammatory dietary supplements, such as boswellia and omega-3 fats, may lessen frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Ask your healthcare provider if these dietary supplements may be right for you. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
  • Know your medications. There are nearly two dozen commonly prescribed medications, which can be used alone or in combination to control asthma. Don’t accept frequent asthma attacks as a normal part of life. If your asthma isn’t wellcontrolled, talk to your doctor about other medication options. Select Medicines, above, for more information.
  • Control your environment. Healthy living products, such as an air purifier to lessen asthma triggers in your home, can be an important part of your asthma self-care plan. Select Personal Care, above, for more information.

References

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.