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Monday, May 2, 2016

World Asthma Day

The following was originally published at on May 4, 2015.  While it was published for last years event, it still applies today. 

World Asthma Day is May 5, 2015. This is an annual event sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) since 1998. This is one day of the year specifically dedicated to improving asthma awareness and care throughout the world. This year’s theme is “You Can Control Your Asthma.”

Asthma, or asthma-like symptoms, were recorded in some of the earliest writings. The disease was relatively ignored by the medical profession, mainly because it was considered more of a nuisance (like a head cold) than a serious disease. So they ignored asthma in favor of diseases like tuberculosis and diptheria.

So now that those diseases are tackled, it’s our turn. Since the 1950s researchers have made great strides in asthma research. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, asthma guidelines were created -- such as GINA’ Guide to Asthma Management and Prevention and National Heart Blood and Lung Institute’s (NHLBI) Asthma Guidelines -- to arm doctors with the knowledge they need to help YOU control your asthma.

In 1998, the first World Asthma Day was sponsored by GINA. In 2003, GINA released the Global Burden of Asthma Report showing “the prevalence and impact of asthma around the world.” The theme for World Asthma Day 2004 was the “Burden of Asthma.” They just wanted to get the word out that, “Hey, our disease is important too. We would like some attention here.”

Yet despite all the progress made since then, all the evidence suggests that too many asthmatics continue to suffer; too many asthmatics continue to be victims of their disease and they don’t have to.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) estimates that about 300 million people worldwide have asthma, which is about 10 percent of the world’s population. Of these, about 53 percent have asthma attacks in a given year. So there are still many asthmatics who struggle with their disease.

So, as you can see, it’s a big deal that we get our own day, once a year, on the first Tuesday of May (National Asthma Month) to get the word out about our disease. And considering all those who continue to suffer from the effects of asthma, it’s only fitting that this year’s theme is “You Can Control Your Asthma.”

Most asthma experts now agree that most cases of asthma can be controlled by working with a doctor and creating an asthma action plan. This plan tells you what to do daily to control your asthma, and what action to take when you recognize asthma symptoms.

The goal of asthma control, as noted by GINA, is:
  • No (or minimal) asthma symptoms
  • No waking at night due to asthma
  • Rare use of asthma rescue medicine
  • Ability to do normal physical activity and exercise
  • Normal lung function
  • No (or infrequent) asthma attacks
These goals should be realistic for most asthmatics. For the 10 percent of asthmatics with severe asthma, the goal of asthma control might be satisfaction with your current qualify of life, or being able to do the things you love to do.

These guidelines arm physicians with the knowledge they need to help their asthma patients obtain and maintain good asthma control. No longer do asthmatics need to suffer as victims of their disease. Yet, as the evidence shows, many still do.

So, the goal of this year’s World Asthma Day is to get the word out to every asthmatic: You Can Control Your Asthma. To get started, check out my post “How to Obtain Good Control of Your Asthma.”

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