Take Control of Your Asthma

May 1, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25 million Americans have asthma: 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults. The numbers are higher in Connecticut when compared to other state averages.

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Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness and disability in children, and it disproportionately affects those of African American or Puerto Rican descent. Social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status and the environment, are risk factors. If untreated, many people end up in the Emergency Department with an acute exacerbation.

The prevalence of asthma underscores the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of asthma and what to do if you have the diagnosis. Middlesex Hospital understands this and has identified asthma as a priority area based on the results of its most recent community health needs assessment. Similarly, the Connecticut Hospital Association’s Committee on Population Health developed the Connecticut Asthma Initiative, now comprised of 60 organizations including hospitals, community organizations and state government. Middlesex Hospital staff members have actively participated since its inception.

While asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood, it can be diagnosed at any age. Warning signs include a persistent cough, wheezing, chest discomfort and shortness of breath. Many people get used to these symptoms and consider them normal, but they are not, says Veronica Mansfield, an advanced practice registered nurse, certified case manager and asthma educator for the Hospital’s Center for Chronic Care Management. When individuals experience these symptoms, they should visit their primary care doctor.

“Asthma attacks can be prevented and avoided if managed,” Mansfield says. “Symptom management is the biggest challenge.”

Once diagnosed, it is important to follow your health care provider’s directions. To manage asthma and avoid an attack, prescribed daily steroid inhalers should be used even if no symptoms are present. This helps to reduce any swelling and inflammation in the lungs. The goal is to treat and prevent exacerbation and to minimize environmental triggers when possible.

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What else should you do?
For asthma management, Mansfield recommends regular asthma wellness visits with a health care provider. For those who need to use a rescue inhaler, such as Albuterol, more than two times per week during the day or more than two times per month during the night, Mansfield suggests discussing a plan with a healthcare provider to better manage symptoms.

In an effort to improve asthma outcomes, Middlesex Hospital has formed the Middlesex County Asthma Coalition, which includes Middletown Public Schools, the Community Health Center in Middletown and the Middletown Health Department. Coalition goals include patient education; promoting use of asthma action plans in the primary care practice setting for asthma management; reducing emergency department visits due to asthma exacerbation and aligning pediatric asthma care with the school system. The Coalition plans to conduct focus groups to gather input from the community about barriers to asthma management.

The Hospital is dedicated to providing clinical and supportive services for asthma so that community members who struggle with an asthma diagnosis can experience an improved quality of life.

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