AUGUSTA, Maine – Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs, leading to breathing problems including coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and trouble sleeping. In most cases, the cause is unknown and there is no known cure.
More than 22,000 children and more than 100,000 adults in Maine have asthma, which places the state in the top 10 states when comparing adult asthma rates. In 2009, there were 14 deaths, 1,169 hospitalizations and 8,482 emergency department visits due to asthma, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics.
Asthma attacks occur when something irritates the lungs and causes sudden breathing problems. Some of the more common of these asthma triggers are tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, mold, cleaning agents, dust mites and strong smells from perfumes and colognes.
Asthma can be controlled and treated. National guidelines include using medication as prescribed — not just when experiencing symptoms; knowing how to avoid asthma triggers; working with a physician or healthcare provider to design a written asthma action plan; making two visits to a physician each year for routine asthma care; and getting an annual flu shot.
An asthma action plan gives instructions on what medicine to use and how often, as well as what to do if symptoms get worse. It is especially important for children to have a plan available at home and at school, as school nurses, coaches and school administrators rely on it when a student has an asthma attack.
There is evidence that adults with asthma are more susceptible to invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), which includes pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases. Vaccines for children and adults are available which are effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death from IPD. Ask your health care provider for information about these vaccines.
The Maine CDC Asthma Prevention and Control Program has asthma action plan forms and other information available at their web site: