May is Asthma Awareness Month and this month serves as a rally point for our work to help people with asthma live full and active lives.
Asthma is not going away – nearly 23 million people suffer from this chronic disease and more than 7 million are children. This alarming statistic reminds me why asthma awareness is so imperative and the importance of my role in helping asthma sufferers live a healthier, active lifestyle.
I first became interested in public health policy about eight years ago. From my research at the University of Virginia, I knew indoor allergens affected asthma. However, as the rate of asthma continued to rise, I wanted to take this research and move it into practice – to increase public awareness and create actionable strategies that help get asthma under control. Now, as a member of the EPA Asthma Team, I am dedicated to helping people avoid the indoor triggers that make asthma worse.
Environmental asthma triggers can cause asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing, and even more severe problems, such as an asthma attack. Common triggers include secondhand smoke, allergens from animal dander, dust mites, molds, and pests such as cockroaches and mice. Since we spend the majority of our time inside, at home, at school, or at work, indoor triggers are a serious risk for most people with asthma. For children, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness.
Do you or someone you know have asthma?
- Learn more about asthma symptoms, environmental triggers, prevention steps, and resources to help deal with asthma.
- Locate a local community awareness event and get directly involved!
- Encourage your child’s doctor, school nurse, teacher, and other asthma advocate in your community to learn more about their role in asthma management at the 2010 National Asthma Forum.
- Make changes in the home environment. Take the smoke-free home pledge to help create healthy, smoke free environments.
Although we still don’t know how to cure asthma, we do know what it takes for people with asthma to live a full and active lifestyle. We use all the tools we have – air quality regulations, research, and education – and it’s rewarding to be part of that effort at EPA. What action will you take this month to help get asthma under control?
About the author: Alisa Smith is a biologist with the Indoor Environments Division’s Asthma Education and Outreach Program.