Air Quality Archives - Active Healthcare

Albuterol to the Rescue


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Does Back to School Mean Back to Allergies?


Summer is coming to a close for students in Read more

Got Asthma or Allergies? There’s an App for That!


AllergyManager Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by Read more

The Double Threat of Vaping


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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How Houseplants Affect Asthma and Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are all familiar with the usual suspects that trigger asthma including secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, pests like cockroaches, and pets. Did you know that your houseplants can affect the air quality in your home and your asthma?

The Good: Many Common Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality

houseplants and air qualityPlants are frequently used to mediate the effects of pollution and toxins in our external environment. Our indoor environments can contain toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Two common indoor VOC pollutants are benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene can be found in plastics, fabrics, pesticides, and cigarette smoke. Common household items such as dish detergent, fabric softener, and carpet cleaners all may contain formaldehyde.

VOCs have been linked to asthma and more serious conditions including respiratory illnesses and cancer. Plants act as filters to remove these harmful pollutants via their leaves and roots. In addition, the microorganisms living in the plant’s soil are a big help in neutralizing the air. Air-quality friendly plants include the Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, Red-Edged Dracaena, Snake Plant, and Asparagus Fern.

The Bad: These Houseplants are Indoor Irritants

Your friendly ficus that fills an empty corner has allergens in its sap. Palms, of the male variety, produce excess pollen. Check in with your local nursery to find a ‘female’ palm which is not a pollen offender. English ivy can cause skin irritations. African violets have beautiful flowers, but their leaves are dust catchers.

Don’t forget about cut flowers! If you home includes allergy sufferers, you may want to select flowers that generate less pollen like lilies, iris, roses and zinnias. Try to avoid daisies, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers in your table top bouquets.

Healthy Plants Mean Healthier Air: Avoid the Ugly Reality of Mold and Fungi

Over-watering your plants can lead to the development of a fungus and mold which are known asthma triggers. Remember that plants like ferns can be kept in rooms with higher humidity levels, such as your bathroom to keep them healthy and minimize over-watering.

Additional Resources

NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants
Houseplant Watering Guide


What Ozone Forecast Season Means for Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Ozone: Photo from Pexels.

Photo from Pexels.

Spring snuck up on me this year–not that I’m complaining! It doesn’t seem that long ago that the news was monopolized by winter weather warnings and threats of snowstorms. I’m more than happy to put those snow boots away and slip into my favorite summer sandals! The advent of warmer weather also means we’re heading into ozone forecast season which is when ground-level ozone, created by pollution from sources like cars and smokestacks, is at its highest.

High amounts of ground-level ozone can worsen asthma symptoms, so it’s key for asthmatics to check the forecast daily, which is posted to our Asthma Therapy page. Ozone forecast season stretches from April 1 to October 31 in North Carolina and serves as a reminder to check the forecast before heading outdoors.

Ozone Levels and Air Quality Forecasts

The forecast is color coded to indicate air quality and the potential health implications:

  • Good: Code Green
  • Moderate: Code Yellow – Dangerous to those with extreme asthma
  • Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups: Code Orange
  • Unhealthy For Most Everyone:Code Red
  • Very Unhealthy: Code Purple – The whole population is at risk; this is an emergency condition.

 

The air quality forecast is published each day at 3pm to help you plan your outdoor activities for the following day. In addition to accessing the forecast on our website, you can also sign up for email, phone, or mobile app alerts via the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website.

Ozone forecast season isn’t just a reminder to monitor air quality; it can also inspire us to take steps to improving air quality. Cleaner air means fewer high ozone days, healthier lungs, and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. One step you can take to improve air quality is to choose sustainable transportation for your daily commute to work. Rethink your commute by carpooling, vanpooling, biking to work, working from home, or taking the bus. Many local transit agencies offer financial incentives for switching over to a sustainable mode of transportation – like GoTriangle’s GoSmart program. Choosing alternative transportation can also help you save money on gas and vehicle maintenance. It’s been several years since our last code red ozone day and I hope this ozone forecast season proves to be a healthy and safe one!


What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

One unique and popular way to usher in spring in the Triangle area is by attending a movie on the lawn at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Thousands turn out with picnic baskets in tow to enjoy a favorite snack while watching a film under the stars. That’s one of the best parts about spring—the ability to enjoy the outdoors in the deliciously warm weather. Whether it’s at a movie on the lawn, a walk on the greenway, or a game of Frisbee in the park, outdoor activities rule. One aspect of spring that I could do without though is the sneezing and the itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies.

Climate Change Can Effect Vegetation and Pollution

If you feel like your allergies have gotten worse in recent years, you’re not alone. Many scientists believe that there’s a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies since plants have started blooming earlier in the season and continue releasing pollen longer. Scientific research suggests that one very common allergen—ragweed—has increased due to higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide. A warmer climate also means higher ozone levels. Ground-level ozone caused by pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially during the ozone forecast season that runs from April through October.

Yet many scientists are also hopeful that the pendulum may soon start to swing the other way on climate change. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media recently about the Paris climate change agreement. Many are hopeful that stronger environmental goals will combat global warming. This climate change deal in combination with the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama announced in August 2015, could also be beneficial in reducing the impact of seasonal allergies on asthma sufferers. The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce power plant emissions by 32% by 2030 which could reduce as many as 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Allergy Season Tips

It’s of course going to take some time for these climate change plans to go into effect, but asthmatics can take some immediate steps to lessen the blow of seasonal allergies. If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan that you’ve developed with your doctor. This plan should outline which medications to take on a regular basis and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. You can also use one of these five free apps, like EPA’s AIRNOW and Allery Alert, to track air quality and allergy forecasts so you can better prepare for days with high ozone levels and peak pollen counts.


EPA Implements Cleaner Diesel Bus Program to Improve Air Quality for Students

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,
The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

It seems like I get stuck behind a smelly car at least once a week during my commute. I feel trapped in my own car, breathing in smelly exhaust fumes. It always seems difficult getting away from those cars—I can’t seem to change lanes fast enough. Pollution from exhaust is more than just an annoyance—it has a big impact on our respiratory health. Diesel-powered school buses are linked to increasing rates of children missing school and experiencing reduced lung function. In response to this growing health concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking strides to reduce the number of high-polluting vehicles that are out on the road.

Rebates Available to Update Aging School Buses

In an effort to reduce school children’s exposure to diesel emissions, the EPA will provide $7 million in rebates to replace or retrofit 400 diesel school buses of model years 2006 and older. The rebates will be available to 85 school bus fleets in 35 states. Many older buses pre-date EPA standards that have made newer diesel engines over 90% cleaner. The EPA has required stricter emissions standards on diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.

“Schools and other organizations that install clean diesel technology are doing more than just saving money–they’re creating cleaner, healthier air for children and all community residents,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in a press release issued by the EPA on Dec. 11, 2015. “This program continues to help thousands of children breathe easier and lead safer lives year after year.”

Diesel Exhaust: A Potent Pollutant

Diesel pollution is high up on the list as one of most prevalent sources of toxic air pollution in the U.S. It’s not only linked to respiratory problems like asthma attacks, but also to heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Diesel pollution increases the risk of cancer over seven times more than the combined risk of the other 181 air toxics that the EPA tracks, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

Switching to cleaner diesel buses can greatly benefit children with asthma. A University of Michigan and University of Washington joint study released in 2015 showed that switching to ultra low sulfur diesel reduced a marker for lung inflammation by more than 16% for all the children in the study, and by 20-31% for children with asthma.


Air Pollution Could Increase Risk of Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  

Air Pollution_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It’s easy to recognize the effects of air pollution on our ability to breathe, but air pollution can cause a myriad of other health conditions. Air pollution is the ninth most important cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease, and new research shows that it could also increase the risk of resistance to insulin in children—a red flag for the onset of diabetes.

A recent study of nearly 400 German children, age 10, revealed that insulin resistance increased 17% for every 10.6 micrograms per cubic meter increase in ambient nitrogen dioxide. Previous studies have revealed a connection between traffic-associated pollutants and the development of diabetes in adults. When individuals breathe in fine particulates from pollution, those particles make there way into heart and blood vessels, and increase inflammation and insulin resistance. A study published in January in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences established that “Air pollution is a leading cause of insulin resistance and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

To reduce exposure to air pollution, individuals can monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) and avoid outdoor activities when the AQI exceeds 100. Exercising on greenways instead of next to roadways also reduces exposure to vehicle exhaust. For more tips on how to reduce exposure to air pollution, check out our blog post on “Why Outdoor Air Pollution is Hard on Your Heart.”

Suggest Articles for You:

Diabetes Service Dogs Sniff Out Changes in Blood Sugar Levels

How to Exercise Safely with Type 1 Diabetes

Women with Diabetes at Higher Risk of Heart Attacks Than Men


Proposed Legislation Will Make Public Housing Smoke-free

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

Smoking_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It wasn’t that long ago that restaurants asked patrons, “Would you like to be seated in the smoking or non-smoking section?” In 2010, North Carolina’s legislature passed North Carolina’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law that gradually made that question obsolete. Smoke-free legislation is growing traction on a national level with the proposed rule to make public housing properties smoke-free.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro joined Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in Alexandria, VA to announce the proposed federal rule for smoke-free public housing in November. Secretary Castro says the proposed rule will protect residents—especially the elderly and children with asthma—from harmful secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger that can result in wheezing, coughing, or even an asthma attack.

“Everyone – no matter where they live – deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. So, when 58 million Americans – including 15 million children – are exposed to secondhand smoke, we have an obligation to act. That is what Secretary Castro is doing with this proposal.”

Residents in HUD-assisted housing use emergency rooms more frequently and are at a higher risk of health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, in comparison to the general population and other low-income households. The proposed smoke-free rule could reduce the impact of smoke-related illnesses and improve the overall health of these residents; smoke-free buildings also cost less to clean and maintain a higher property value. If passed, the regulation would affect about one million households in the U.S., and would have the greatest impact on the New York City Housing Authority, which provides 178,000 public housing apartments to over 400,000 individuals.


Seattle Otter Diagnosed with Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
A Seattle otter's asthma was triggered by wildfire smoke.

A Seattle otter’s asthma was triggered by wildfire smoke.

I was surprised to learn that wildfires on the West Coast have affected air quality as far away from the fire source as Colorado Springs, Colo. Even more surprising was the news that a Seattle otter was recently diagnosed with asthma triggered by smoke from these wildfires.

In August, as the air at the Seattle Aquarium became smokier from nearby wildfires, aquarium staff noticed that Mishka the otter was lethargic and lacked an appetite, which is unusual for otters. The next day she had an asthma attack; aquarium staff rushed to put an oxygen mask on Mishka and administer anti-inflammatory medication. Mishka became the first-known case of a sea otter with asthma after medical tests indicated that she has the condition.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), “Sarah Perry, an aquarium trainer, is teaching Mishka to use an asthma inhaler by putting food on the tip and encouraging the otter to push her nose into it and take a deep breath.” The aquarium is trying to use positive reinforcement as a way to encourage Mishka to use the inhaler. Otters tend to be playful, so aquarium staff is trying to make using the inhaler fun.

Asthma is most common in people, cats and horses, but it’s possible for any animal with lungs to develop the condition. Mishka is learning to self-administer medicine through an inhaler called AeroKat, which is a feline aerosol chamber used for cats with asthma. AeroKat can also be used to administer fluticasone, the generic for Flonase, and Mishka takes albuterol for asthma attacks. Sounds like Mishka knows that she “otter” take her asthma medication as directed!

Sources:

Seattle Otter Treated For Asthma After Exposure to Wildfire Smoke, by Scott Simon, National Public Radio

Sea otter with asthma learns to use an inhaler, by Laura Geggel, CBS News


“Race to Quit, NC” Campaign Helps North Carolinians Win Their Race to be Smoke-Free

Lisa Feierstein Asthma Leave a comment   ,

Smoking_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04Smoking is one of the more common asthma triggers for children and adults with asthma, but one out of every five North Carolinians is still smoking. The number of smokers nationwide has dropped to 15%, but over 20% of North Carolinians smoke, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking kills 14,200 North Carolinians each year and causes $3.8 billion in annual health care costs. Over 50 organizations—including Active Healthcare, leading patient groups, health care delivery systems, nonprofits, and state and local agencies—have joined together to launch “Race to Quit, NC.” The goal of this smoking cessation campaign is to help North Carolinians win the battle of quitting smoking and tobacco use.

It’s no secret that quitting tobacco use is a difficult endeavor, and many users have tried multiple times to quit without success. During the Race to Quit, NC launch week October 5-9, campaign partners will hold events to raise awareness of the campaign and to promote the campaign website. The site features educational materials and comprehensive resources to help tobacco users quit. You can also follow the campaign on social media via the hashtag #RacetoQuitNC.

Quitting is hard, but smokers don’t have to go it alone. There are huge health and financial benefits to quitting—both for the smoker and those that might breathe in their second-hand smoke. Together, we can help North Carolinians break the cycle of tobacco use and cross the finish line to a tobacco-free life.


Wildfires in California Affect Asthma Sufferers in Colorado

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

The photos and videos of the Northern California wildfires are both stunning and disheartening; as of Sept. 15, 13,000 people have had to leave their homes and 67,000 acres have burned in the valley fire. The fire isn’t just affecting California. Surprisingly enough, the smoke from the California fires is affecting the air quality hundreds of miles away in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Air pollution from the fires “can cause inflammation of the airways, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath,” according to an article by Christina Dawldowicz, Fox21News. The additional air pollution Colorado Springs residents are exposed to can be especially problematic for individuals with allergies and/or asthma. Even those without respiratory problems can experience eye and nose irritation from the smoke.

Asthma and allergy sufferers can experience some relief from the smoke pollution, also known as “particle pollution,” by limiting time spent outdoors. Those with respiratory problems can switch to indoor exercises, or shorten their outdoor exercises, and should pay close attention to symptoms to determine how much time they can handle being outdoors.

Additional Resources:

Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution by the Environmental Protection Agency

 


Why Outdoor Air Pollution is Hard on Your Heart

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

I’m fortunate to live in an area where it’s easy to hop on a greenway and go for a relaxing walk in the woods. The air seems just a little bit crisper and cleaner when I’m surrounded by trees and an umbrella of beautiful blue sky overhead. The air probably is a little cleaner–certainly more so than if I was walking next to a busy road–but I know that I can’t completely escape outdoor air pollution.

My initial thoughts about air pollution are usually on the impact that air quality has on our ability to breathe and how it affects asthma sufferers. These thoughts come to mind first because I can immediately feel the affect of poor air quality on my ability to breathe. Outdoor air pollution and allergens like pollen can cause coughing, sneezing, throat irritation, and trigger asthma symptoms. But air pollution also affects our health in ways we may not immediately notice.

Air pollution is “caused by small particles and ground level ozone that comes from car exhaust, smoke, road dust and factory emissions,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not only does outdoor air pollution make it harder to breathe, it can also be hard on your heart and is the ninth most important cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease. The small particles in air pollution can cause inflammation in the lungs and blood vessels that in turn can increase the risk for clots and atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque deposits build up in the arteries. As plaque hardens, it narrows the arteries and limits blood flow. Even short periods of exposure to these particles, like driving with the windows down, can increase the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Neil Schachter, Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) to monitor local air pollution levels. He recommends avoiding outdoor activities when the AQI is above 100. Running air conditioning instead of leaving the windows down in your home and car is another way to reduce your exposure to air pollution since your home’s filters will capture large particles. In the car, use the “recirculate” setting to keep 80 percent of outdoor air pollution out of the vehicle. Also, try to exercise away from roads to avoid breathing in exhaust from vehicles. See you out on the greenway!

Sources:

Surprising Dangers of Air Pollution by Dr. Neil Schachter, Bottom Line Health

Asthma Triggers: Gain Control, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 


Start School on the Right Foot with These Asthma Tips

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1 ,

Reading Education Literature Books Know School

I was out shopping the other day and was surprised to see the school supply section bustling with students and parents gathering supplies for the start of school. It seems like summer started yesterday, but ready or not, here comes a new school year! As children get ready by packing fresh supplies in brand new backpacks, parents of children with asthma also need to prepare for a new school year. More than 10 million school days are missed each year due to asthma-related absences, according to the American Lung Association. Parents can help their children start school on the right foot by reviewing this back-to-school asthma checklist:

  1. Talk to the school about your child’s asthma action plan: The American Lung Association’s Back-to-School with Asthma Toolkit has asthma resources and tips for parents, teachers, students, school nurses and school officials. The Asthma Toolkit also includes “The Basics for Parents,” which explains which asthma questions parents should ask their child’s school. Check that your child’s school nurse and/or teacher have a recent copy of your child’s asthma action plan, and ask if your child can carry their medication while at school. That way, the school will be familiar with your child’s medications and will be prepared to help in the event of an asthma emergency. The asthma action plan should include information about your child’s asthma triggers and symptoms, when and how to administer medication, and what to do in an emergency.
  2. Learn about asthma emergency protocols: Ask about the school’s procedures in the event that your child has an asthma attack. Label your child’s medication with their name, the name of the medication, and instructions for use. Make sure the school has emergency contact information for you and a few backup contacts.
  3. Keep tabs on air quality: If your child’s asthma is triggered by perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning chemicals, chalk dust, mold, and/or pet dander, talk to your child’s teacher and the school nurse about how your child can avoid these triggers. Each day, check the ozone forecast at the EPA’s AirNow site to monitor outdoor air quality and decide whether or not it’s safe for your child to play outside. Asthma symptoms can increase on days when ground level ozone is high, so your child might need to stick to indoor activities on those days.

Before school starts, consider making a doctor’s appointment for your child to make sure their asthma action plan is up to date. A little preparation with your child’s doctor and school will set your child up for a happy and healthy school year.

Additional Resources:

Back-to-School with Asthma Checklist by the American Lung Association

Back to School with Allergies and Asthma by Thanai Pongdee, American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology


Asthma Sufferers Could Find Relief in Obama’s Energy Plan

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

President Barack Obama announced a plan earlier this month to reduce power plant emissions, a move that could improve air quality and greatly benefit asthma sufferers. The energy plan requires a reduction of power plant emissions in the U.S. by 32% by 2030. Obama said that these changes would help reduce 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030. The effect of air quality on asthma sufferers hits close to home for Obama—earlier this year he spoke about the fear he felt when his daughter Malia had an asthma attack when she was 4 years old.

Older coal-fired power plants that lack pollution control can emit sulfur dioxide, a known asthma trigger. Ground level ozone, considered “bad ozone,” is caused when pollutants from sources like cars and power plants chemically react with sunlight. High ground level zone levels can trigger asthma symptoms and are usually more of an issue in the summer because of high temperatures, high humidity and lighter winds. Urban areas can be even more problematic for asthma sufferers because of higher pollution levels.

In North Carolina, the ozone forecast season extends from April 1 to October 31. Asthma sufferers can monitor ozone levels by signing up for the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroFlash daily air quality forecasts. The forecast rates ozone and particle pollution levels on a scale from Code Green (Good) to Code Purple (Hazardous) as a way to help individuals sensitive to air quality, like asthma sufferers, decide if it’s safe to participate in outdoor activities.


Asthma Management: There’s an App for That!

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

Diabetes Apps AboundI’m convinced there’s a smartphone app for just about anything you could imagine. One unusual but clever app is called “Fake me out of here.” If you’re stuck in an awkward situation, simply shake your phone and it will ring so you can pretend you just got an important phone call that requires your immediate attention. Apps aren’t just for playing pranks or games anymore, and I’ve noticed a growing number of apps that monitor a variety of health conditions. Asthma sufferers now have a lot of apps available to them–from tracking daily asthma management to monitoring pollen counts, there’s an app for that!

5 Free Asthma Apps:

  1. Asthma Health–The Asthma Health app was developed in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. App users can utilize the technology to get a better understanding of their asthma, but by using the app, they can also participate in what the developers say “may become the largest study of asthma management ever performed.” The app helps patients stick to treatment plans by tracking symptoms and medication usage, avoiding triggers, and viewing reminders to take their medication.
  2. Asthma 360–Asthmatics can setup a dashboard with the Asthma 360 app and track personal statistics like their last peak flow reading. They can also add an asthma action plan for emergencies, setup medication and doctor’s appointment reminders, and create a personalized quick add menu to log their symptoms and triggers.
  3. AsthmaCheck–In addition to keeping track of peak flow meter readings, medication use and symptoms, asthma sufferers can also export their data to share it with their doctor.
  4. EPA’s AIRNOW–This app provides useful information like the Air Quality Index for the user’s location, pollution levels, and explanations about what level of outdoor activity is safe for that day.
  5. Allergy Alert–This is another air quality app, but it focuses more on local pollens counts and allergen levels. App users can access 5-day weather and allergy forecasts, and keep an allergy diary.

Keeping a log of medication use and staying informed about allergens and pollution forecasts can help asthma sufferers better adhere to their asthma management plan, and help them to identify potential triggers.


Most Americans in Favor of Raising the Minimum Age for Tobacco Purchases

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more restrictions on where smokers can have a cigarette. That’s good news for asthma sufferers that are more likely to experience an increase in asthma symptoms and even an asthma attack when exposed to cigarette smoke. Asthma attack symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, pain or tightness in the chest, and coughing. More Americans are on board with increased restrictions on cigarettes, and surprisingly enough, so are smokers. The majority of American adults support increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21, according to an article the CDC published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Among American adults, 75% supported increasing the minimum age, and 70% of adult smokers also supported raising the age of sale. Only 11% of adults were in strong opposition to raising the minimum age of sale.

In most states, the current minimum age of sale for tobacco products is 18, but in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, the minimum age is 19. Hawaii’s minimum age of sale is the highest at 21. In a press release issued by the CDC, Brian King, Ph.D., acting Deputy Director for Research Translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, explained that raising the minimum age of sale could reduce the likelihood that first time smokers become regular smokers. This policy change could also benefit asthma sufferers, since tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers.

“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Dr. King. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”

Smokers that try their first cigarette before age 21 are more likely to continue smoking as an adult. A 2012 Surgeon General report revealed that 96% of adult smokers had their first smoke before age 21. Tobacco distributers are familiar with this trend, and aggressively market to younger consumers. A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) showed that raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco products in all 50 states would reduce the amount of cigarette smoking by 12% by 2100.

Those with asthma that experience worsened symptoms when exposed to tobacco smoke can take a few measures to reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack. If you have asthma, ask smokers to smoke outside your home and car. Also look for tobacco-free campus policies at day cares and schools. Choose no-smoking rooms at hotels and pick restaurants that don’t allow smoking since restaurants with no-smoking and smoking sections don’t provide enough protection against second-hand smoke. Discuss an asthma action plan with your doctor to insure that you have the right medication on hand at all times.


Chronic Inflammation Increases Diabetes Risk

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   , , ,

When we get hurt or have an infection, the body’s natural response is to trigger inflammation. Short-term inflammation helps the body heal as white blood cells fight off bacteria and viruses. Normal inflammation manifests as pain, swelling, redness, and a sensation of heat. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can occur in conjunction with some diseases, like arthritis, and it can also raise the risk of developing diabetes. In these cases, inflammation continues for years and damages body tissue. Individuals suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, gum disease, poor diet or obesity are among those at risk for long-term inflammation.

Researchers have found that chronic inflammation raises the risk of developing diabetes because it interferes with insulin’s ability to regulate glucose, which can cause high blood sugar. Inflammation damages beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, and inflammation is also a result of the main diabetes risk factors – obesity, smoking, and diets high in fat and sugar. High-carb, low protein diets are inflammatory for many people, but low-carb diets and diets higher in fruits and vegetables have been known to reduce inflammation. In observational studies, participants on the Mediterranean diet – high in fish, whole grains, beans, nuts and vegetables – have reported low inflammatory markers.

Gum disease, air pollution and cigarette smoke, and lack of exercise are all threats that can lead to chronic inflammation. These risk factors can be reduced through good dental hygiene, the use of indoor HEPA filters and by avoiding cigarette smoke, and with regular exercise. There are also some foods, spices and teas that can help to reduce inflammation. One of my favorite anti-inflammatory foods is dark chocolate! One square of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) a day can help reduce inflammation. You can also reduce inflammation by drinking a few cups of rose hip tea a day, and by adding the spice turmeric to food. If you would prefer to take a rose hip or turmeric supplement, talk to your doctor to make sure these supplements don’t conflict with any medication you’re taking. Your doctor can also test for inflammation and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Mystery Solved! The Truth About Common Asthma Myths

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

The number of Americans with asthma grows steadily each year; about 1 in 12 people (25 million) have asthma. Although it’s a relatively common condition, there are many misconceptions about asthma. Here are a few common asthma myths, and the reality behind those misconceptions:

  1. Save your asthma medication for when you are having an asthma attack
    If you have mild persistent, moderate persistent, or severe persistent asthma, you will likely need to take a daily medication and have a fast-acting inhaler on hand for asthma attacks.
  2. Asthma symptoms improve in dry climates
    This is true for some individuals with asthma, but others do better in a wetter climate. If moisture helps ease your symptoms, consider purchasing a humidifier for your home. Regularly replace your indoor air filters and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to improve indoor air quality and lessen your asthma symptoms.
  3. If you have asthma, you should avoid intense exercise
    Believe it or not, there are quite a few professional athletes with asthma, and regular exercise can improve lung function. Your doctor can help you determine if you should take medication before working out. Check out this article on exercise-induced asthma for advice on how to safely exercise if you have asthma.
  4. Diet has little impact on asthma
    Fatty foods, like fries or red meat, can cause increased inflammation in the airways that can worsen asthma symptoms. The Mediterranean diet is the go-to diet for gaining more control over your asthma symptoms. Healthier fats, like olive oil, are allowed in this diet and the Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of heart disease.
  5. You can get addicted to your asthma medication
    Asthma medication isn’t habit forming, but asthma is a chronic condition so long-term use of medication is to be expected. Your asthma treatment plan should explain which medications you should use regularly, and which ones you should use in the event of an asthma attack.

Sources:
Are you being fooled by asthma myths? by Allergies & Asthma, Winter 2014/2015
Common Asthma Myths and Facts by remedy’s health.com communities


This Musician Can Soothe Your Asthma Blues

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment  

Al Keith doesn’t want you down and out with the “asthma blues.” In fact, he’s so concerned about respiratory health, he produced a jazz and blues CD called “Asthma Blues” to educate asthmatics, their families and caregivers about how to have a successful asthma management plan. Al is a respiratory therapist based out of Chicago who understands that music is a powerful educational tool. He created CTK Clinical Consultants, LLC in 2002 as a way to build an “educational bridge between patients and physicians.”

Al’s songs were written based on the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) guidelines. He sings about important components of an asthma management plan like how to identify asthma triggers, how to use a peak flow meter, and why it’s important to have a written asthma action plan. You can download Al’s album on iTunes, or on the Asthma Blues website, and enjoy songs like “Breathin’ Right,” Get Your Peak Flow On,” and “You Need an Action Plan.”

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The Striking Truth about Thunderstorm Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

Thunder doesn’t just signal that lightning is coming—it can also trigger asthma attacks. We usually think the rain will help our allergies by washing away pollen, but on rare occasions, thunderstorms can actually make allergies worse. During thunderstorms, the low barometric pressure can stir up mold and pollen that can be an irritant to individuals with allergies and asthma. Some researchers believe the thunderstorm’s electrical charge can make mold and pollen particles more likely to stick to the lungs, and asthma-related emergency room visits actually increase during and after some thunderstorms.

Researchers have had a difficult time fully understanding thunderstorm asthma since it is a rare, localized occurrence. Thunderstorms generally don’t last very long, so it can be hard to determine if an asthma attack was caused by the thunderstorm or something else. Plus, different asthma sufferers have different sensitivities, so not everyone with asthma is at risk of experiencing a thunderstorm-related asthma attack. However, researchers believe the increase in ER visits due to thunderstorm asthma could be because individuals with mild asthma might not have a rescue inhaler on hand. Scientists are concerned that cases of thunderstorm asthma could increase due to climate change that would increase the amount of pollen in the air and lead to stronger thunderstorms. If you have asthma, make sure you have rescue inhalers on hand in case you are susceptible to thunderstorm asthma.

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Your Job Could Be Bad for Your Lungs

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

Some jobs, like construction and manufacturing, put workers at a greater risk of experiencing a serious accident. However, there are many other professions that pose a less obvious threat. Some common occupations can actually put your lungs at risk for conditions like asthma, fibrosis, cancer, COPD and infections.

Jobs like construction and manufacturing are often thought of as dangerous because of the risk of equipment-related accidents. However, these jobs also expose workers to asbestos, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust from demolitions, or to the risk of inhaling microscopic fibers and metals. These risk factors can contribute to conditions like asthma, lung cancer, and mesothelioma (another type of cancer). Firefighters can also be exposed to harmful building materials, but can reduce their risk of exposure by using a “self-contained breathing apparatus” (SCBA).

Housekeepers are regularly exposed to cleaning chemicals, which can also emit VOCs. These VOCs can cause allergic reactions and lead to long-lasting breathing problems. While cleaning, housekeepers can run fans and open windows in an effort to improve ventilation in the area. Cleaning with vinegar, baking soda and water are effective alternatives to commercial cleaners, and are less irritating to the lungs.

Hair stylists are also regularly exposed to chemicals, but from hair-coloring and straightening products instead of from cleaners. Hair-coloring products can cause asthma, and hair-straightening products contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Health care workers with a sensitivity to latex can experience asthma-like symptoms, but latex-free synthetic gloves can be an effective alternative.

For workers with work conditions that can damage their lungs, it’s important to wear protective gear like masks and special breathing apparatuses. Working in well ventilated areas can also make a positive difference. Managers and employees should make an effort to understand job-related health risks, and utilize equipment that protects them from harmful chemicals and dust.

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Indoor Allergies Could Increase Risk of Childhood Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

Parents know that the safety and health of their children will have an impact on their children’s development and health as an adult. Research has shown us that childhood obesity, for example, could be linked to an increased risk of diabetes; heart attacks; cancers; and in the immediate term, it could negatively affect academic performance. A new study revealed another children’s health risk parents should keep in mind, and it involves the relationship between childhood allergies in toddlers and preschoolers and the development of asthma later in childhood.

Researchers studied about 500 children from Cincinnati at ages 1, 2, 3 and 4, and administered skin prick allergy tests for common indoor allergies to cats, dogs, cockroaches and dust mites. Children in the study were tested for asthma at age 7, and researchers found that those with a year-to-year positive test for cat and dust mite allergies and an increased risk of having asthma. Although there’s a link between these specific allergens and an increased risk of developing asthma, more research is needed to determine if these allergens cause asthma since there are other factors that be at play.

Curious about other childhood conditions that increase the risk of asthma development? Check out our post on the link between childhood eczema and asthma.

 

 


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