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World Asthma Day: You can control your asthma

According to Carol Wiggins, M.D., an asthma and allergy specialist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, more than 20 million Americans have asthma, a serious, potentially life-threatening respiratory disease. Asthma rates have significantly increased in the past 30 years, especially among children ages five to 14.

Common symptoms of the disease include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath 

Common asthma triggers

It can be triggered by a number of sources, she says, including: 

  • Vigorous outdoor exercise 
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Fireplaces
  • Dust mites
  • Heating units

Allergic asthma: The most common form of asthma 

She recommends that patients with asthma not exercise outdoors on poor air quality index days. Allergic asthma is asthma that is triggered by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens. It is the most common form of asthma, affecting more than 50 percent of asthma suffers.

"Allergists are able to do skin testing to find out what patients are allergic to, which can help them avoid common triggers,” she says.  

Asthma treatment options

Treatments for asthma range from anti-inflammatory drugs to allergy management through testing and anti-allergy injections. Many patients use rescue inhalers as well.

Dr. Wiggins notes, “These treatments have been shown to reduce emergency room visits.”

Controlling asthma complications 

Asthma suffers should get a flu vaccination each fall because viral infections can cause flare-ups.

Although asthma deaths are not common, they do occur, she says, but with the care of your physician, you can keep the disease under control. In keeping with World Asthma Day’s theme, “You Can Control Your Asthma,” Dr. Wiggins wants people to know that “there is a lot that can be done – you do not have to suffer in silence from life-altering asthma.”

If you suspect that you or a loved one suffers from asthma, talk to your physician who can provide treatment options and advice. No one should have to suffer in silence, especially when there are so many lifestyle and medication options to control your asthma. 

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