ALLERGIC LIVING |
FALL 2012 29
Q. As a kid in Ottawa, I had asthma. The symptoms all butdisappeared while living on Vancouver Island. I’ve justmoved back to Ottawa – and the asthma’s back too! Why is this?
Asthma is an unusal medical condition sinceit requires people to worry about their environment. Forinstance, Vancouver Island and Ottawa are very different interms of weather and pollen patterns.Ask your doctor for a referral for allergy tests; SouthernOntario is known for triggers such as ragweed and tree pollen,while pollution and cold air may also cause asthma to flare. ACertified Respiratory Educator can help you explore your asthmatriggers. An Asthma Action Plan will help you manage any new asthma flare-ups.
Q. My 8-month-old recently had bronchiolitis, and I’vebeen told this means she might have asthma. What is therelationship?
There are a few viruses that can cause bronchi-olitis, the two most common are Respiratory Syncytial Virus(RSV) and rhinovirus. Exposure to these viruses has shown toincrease the risk for asthma, but researchers aren’t exactly surewhy. While some studies see a relationship between the onset of asthma and previous bronchiolitis, other factors may be impli-cated, such as a family history of asthma or allergies or exposureto cigarette smoke. The severity of the infection may also con-tribute to the development of asthma.
Q. At the age of 65, I was just diagnosed with asthma. I’mshocked to have developed this so late in life. What do Ineed to know?
Asthma can develop later on in life, and this ismore common in women. It is a chronic disease that causes yourairways to become inflamed and the muscles around the airwaysto become twitchy and tighten. You must learn what triggers your asthma and, working with your Certified Asthma Educator,come up with strategies to avoid triggers.It is important to learn about the disease to be able to recog-nize the signs of an asthma flare-up. You have to stay on top of asthma: take the medications you have been prescribed daily and contact your physician if you are still having symptoms or if your medicine is not halting symptoms. While you have asthma,it should be noted that breathing difficulties due to COPD(chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder) also need to be con-sidered in older patients.
Q. Is it OK for a 10-year-old with asthma to take coughmedicine?
I wouldn’t recommend this. The standardtreatment for asthma involves controller and reliever medica-tions. Coughing indicates that asthma control may not beoptimal. Ask your doctor for an Asthma Action Plan so that youcan adjust your child’s prescription medication as needed toimprove asthma control and reduce the cough. A CertifiedRespiratory Educator can work with you to understand the rela-tionship between peak flow readings and asthma control andhow this information can be used to avoid flare-ups.
Q. Last fall, my 13-year-old struggled with his ragweedallergy, which led to asthma symptoms. We’d like toprevent a repeat: any advice?
Although pollen is hard to avoid, there areactions you can take. First, check online for the pollen counts in your area. If the counts are high, try to limit outdoor activities(especially in the morning), and keep windows closed and useair conditioning at home, school and in the car.If your son has been prescribed medications for his allergy, besure to continue them until the season ends.
Q. My mother says that acupuncture could help my asthma. Is this true?
Although there are anecdotal reports thatacupuncture can help people with asthma to breathe better,medical studies show insufficient evidence to recommendacupuncture in the treatment of asthma. While there are rela-tively few side effects with acupuncture, this does not mean it is100 percent safe.It’s most important to speak with your doctor to get yourasthma under control with medication that has been studiedand proven to control symptoms. Acupuncture can be used inconjunction with a proper medication regimen, but should notbe used as a replacement to medicines.
Maria Muirhead is a pharmacist and CRE in Toronto, plus the author of My Asthma Book and Smoking = Problems (BIG Problems!); Jaime Peters is a nurse and CRE in Saskatoon and the Health Initiatives coordinator at the Lung Association of Saskatchewan; Paula Smith is a respiratory therapist and CAE in Orillia, Ont.
Jaimie Peters Maria Muirhead
Certified Educators take yourasthma and allergy questions.
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