Thursday, September 07, 2006

Asthma Kills

Asthma kills, as I was again reminded recently. Nearly 5000 people die each year in this country from asthma; in another group equally as big, asthma is a contributor to their death. Although most people who die from asthma are over 50 years old, over the last 20 years there has been an 80% increase in the death rate among children and teens with asthma.

Asthma is a common disease. It is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism (and work absenteeism in adults). It is also a frequent cause of ER visits. The disease can be exacerbated by certain activities (e.g. sports participation), certain conditions (e.g. cold air), but it can strike anytime and can strike without apparent trigger.

Asthma is characterized by bronchiolar constriction/spasm and mucous thickening and plugging (with blocking of bronchioles). The latter condition is the most lethal and the most difficult to treat.

How do we prevent these deaths? This is a bit tougher than some of the other causes, but individuals need to have access to medical care and be assured (ensured) that they are receiving optimal care based on the most up-to-date treatment guidelines. People need to also be aware just how deadly this disease can be. We won’t prevent them all, but some deaths will then be prevented. All people must have access to quality medical care, or we must accept the consequences (people will die).

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