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Asthma

About Asthma in New Mexico

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in New Mexico, with an estimated 136,000 (8.4%) adults and 26,000 (5.4%) children currently having the disease. People with asthma are more likely to miss school or work, report feelings of depression, and experience an overall reduced quality of life. Asthma is also costly, with expenses from routine checkups, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and medications putting a significant burden on families, the health care sector, and the economy. Though it cannot be cured, asthma can be controlled through quality health care, appropriate medications, and good self-management skills. When asthma is controlled, people with the disease have few, if any, symptoms, and can live normal and productive lives. Asthma is frequently diagnosed in childhood. Sometimes asthma symptoms may go dormant for a number of years only to return later in adulthood. Occasionally, adults can develop asthma later in life. Given this complexity, two prevalence measures are helpful in assessing the disease burden: Lifetime prevalence (if an individual has ever been diagnosed as having asthma) and current prevalence (if the individual reports he or she still has asthma).

Description

How asthma affects the airways

Asthma is:

  • A chronic disease that causes swelling in the airways in the lungs.
  • The airways carry air in and out of the lungs.
  • When people have asthma, their airways are inflamed and sensitive, which causes them to swell and become clogged with mucus.
  • When the airways are inflamed, the muscles that are wrapped around them squeeze or spasm. This is called bronchospasm. Bronchospasm makes the airways tighten, which causes asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
  • There is no cure for asthma and even though symptoms can come and go, once one has a developed asthma, one will always have asthma.
  • Asthma can be controlled by taking the right medications and implementing environmental trigger avoidance strategies.

Environmental Asthma Triggers

Asthma triggers are different for everyone and can include things like illnesses or infections, irritants (smoke, chemical fumes, perfumes), allergens (pollens, animal dander, dust, mold) and exercise. Other triggers can include strong emotions (laughing, crying), food additives and dyes (sulfites, yellow dye #5, MSG) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Air pollution is another common asthma trigger. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution is defined as "any visible or invisible particles or gas found in the air that is not part of the natural composition of air." It can be man made or occur in nature. Some examples include ozone, airborne particles, gases, dust, volcanic ash and smoke from fires. Evidence suggests that asthma flare-up and asthma related Emergency Department visits are more likely to occur on high air pollution summer days, versus average pollution days. If pollution levels are high, people with asthma may have to alter their activities. The EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI) is a helpful tool for determining the levels of air pollution in your area and if outdoor activities are safe for individuals with asthma. A number of local weather forecasts provide information about high air pollution days, as well. This information is also accessible anytime at AirNow.gov.

Common triggers for asthma

Identifying and keeping track of your triggers is very important, because being around them can make your asthma very difficult to control. Sometimes it can be hard to pin- point what factors are making your asthma worse, because symptoms don't always happen right after exposure. The time between exposure and symptom onset varies from person-to-person and depends on how sensitive the individual is to the trigger. Please click on the links below for more information on environmental triggers.