Wheezing, coughing,and shortness of breath are serious health problems for people with asthma. In the past 25 years, the United States has seen an increase in the number of people with the disease. In this broadcast, Dr. Paul Garbe discusses how people can manage asthma to help prevent attacks or decrease the overall health effects of this disease. Created: 12/6/2007 by MMWR.
Date Released: 12/6/2007. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Breathe Easier: Learn About Asthma
National Surveillance for Asthma — United States, 1980–2004
December 6, 2007
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC – safer,
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly broadcast of the
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew Reynolds.
Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath are the frightening symptoms that a
person with asthma experiences during an asthma attack. Asthma is a serious health
problem and it can even be deadly. Asthma affects all ages. About one in three of those
with asthma are under 18 and one in ten are 65 or older.
Dr. Paul Garbe, a researcher with CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, is
here to discuss asthma. Dr. Garbe, welcome to the show.
[Dr. Garbe] Thank you, Matthew. It’s nice to be here.
[Matthew Reynolds] Let’s start at the beginning. What is asthma?
[Dr. Garbe] Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your lungs. It’s caused by
inflammation and that leads to swelling of the airways, and you’ll get some mucus that
fills the airways. It makes it very difficult to breath. It’s the most common long term
disease of children, but it can affect adults as well.
[Matthew Reynolds] Are there some people who are more likely to get asthma than
[Dr. Garbe] Yes. We do know that people with allergies are more likely to have asthma.
And if you have someone in your family that has asthma, you are also more likely to
[Matthew Reynolds] What factors are likely to trigger an attack or make it harder to
[Dr. Garbe] Well, that’s a good question. We don’t know what causes asthma, but we
do know some of the things that cause more difficult breathing for people or an asthma
attack. Things like environmental tobacco smoke; say someone smokes in your home.
Pet dander can cause an asthma attack, cockroach allergen, dust mites. In fact one of
the more common problems that people will have is with dust mites in their home. It will
cause severe asthma attacks.
[Matthew Reynolds] Why is it that some people who have asthma have milder cases
and then there are other people who have asthma to such a degree that it’s life
[Dr. Garbe] Well some people may not be able to control their asthma as well as they
should be able to. They may not be using their medications appropriately or they may
be encountering some triggers that they previously weren’t aware of. And what will
happen in those situations is you get a very severe constriction. The airflow in your
lungs almost closes down completely. It’s almost like suffocating.
[Matthew Reynolds] So if a person has asthma, what should they be doing to avoid the
[Dr. Garbe] Well, they should be avoiding their triggers, but more importantly though,
they should see their doctor and make sure they have an asthma action plan that their
doctor can provide. If their doctor has prescribed medications, they should be taking the
medications regularly. Some of these would be short acting medications, some would
be long acting medications, but if your doctor has prescribed both, it’s important for you
to be using both of those, according to the instructions that your doctor gives you.
[Matthew Reynolds] For a typical asthma sufferer, how often do those asthma action
plans, as you called them, need to be adjusted?
[Dr. Garbe] Well, the frequency really would depend on the individual, whether they
have what we would call a mild intermittent asthma or a severe case of asthma. So that
is up to the judgment of both the doctor and you. Could be that you need to adjust your
plan yearly. For some people they might need to be adjusting their plan perhaps
[Matthew Reynolds] How many people are suffering from asthma and does that
represent an increase, a decline over time?
[Dr. Garbe] Well, we know that more than 20 million people in the United States have
asthma. We have seen increases in the prevalence of asthma, that is, the number of
people who have asthma, over time. But one thing that we have noticed as we’ve
monitored the statistics on asthma is that, for those people who do have asthma, the
number of visits to the doctors has remained about stable over time.
[Matthew Reynolds] Where can our listeners get more information about asthma
management and prevention strategies?
[Dr. Garbe] Well, we have a website - w-w-w-dot-cdc-dot-gov-slash-asthma. And on the
website you can find information about how you can control your asthma. You can also
find information about the programs that we have at CDC where we help state health
departments develop asthma control programs in their states and we do have links to
some of the other federal agencies that have asthma programs, such as the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Garbe, thank you so much for taking the time to share this
information with our listeners.
[Dr. Garbe] Glad to be here.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s show. Don’t forget to join us next week.
Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
[Announcer] To access the most accurate and relevant health information that affects you, your family
and your community, please visit www.cdc.gov.