By: Thomas Simmons-Canty, ATC
As an athletic trainer, we must manage a variety of injuries and medical conditions. Today, I am going to focus on asthma. Asthma is defined as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. It is characterized by a variable airway obstruction and bronchial hyper responsiveness. With this obstruction of the airway passages, this can lead to symptoms for recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. Asthma can be triggered by a variety of stimuli such as allergens, pollution, inhaled irritants, perfumes, may run in families, and many other common vapors.
As common as the asthma triggers listed above, one can see why asthma is a concern for an athletic trainer. The reasons for concerns are as follows:
- About 1 in 12 people (about 25 million) have asthma, and the numbers are increasing every year.
- About 1 in 2 people (about 12 million) with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008; however, many asthma attacks could have been prevented.
- The growth of more Americans diagnosed with asthma is on the up rise.
- From 2001 to 2009, 4.3 million Americans were diagnosed with asthma; and within that same time period the CDC saw almost a 50% increase among African Americans.
- Asthma has been linked to 3,447 deaths in 2007 and that is an estimation of 9 deaths per day.
- The prevalence of asthma is growing within our nation.
As a society, and with the many growing apprehensions, we must take a proactive approach to ensure our youth are properly diagnosed and treated before they become another tragedy or statistic in America. Some ways to be proactive in diagnosing asthma are educating parents and/or guardians of the recognizing symptoms and physical follow-up appointments with his or her physician. One of the most important proactive measures is to educate the children and young adults on how to be responsible as an asthmatic or asthma patient. As athletic trainers, it is our responsibility to watch over participants, but we cannot be in all places at one time. A degree of responsibility has to be placed on the children at an understandable age and young adults. Becoming more educated as an athletic trainer, society as a whole, and the parents/guardians of individuals with symptoms of asthma is key to early detection. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can potentially reduce severe asthma related incidences.
Symptoms of asthma may vary according to age. Therefore, it is important to know the different symptoms and how they affect the age of the individuals. Asthma symptoms can be unpredictable and tricky at certain age levels. Symptoms in toddlers may relate to a persistent cough, whistling sound in breathing, and a lingering cold. Symptoms in children may relate to having trouble breathing during or after playing, wheezing or coughing at night, sleeping poorly and difficulty breathing. Symptoms in teens and adults may relate to wheezing, loud or soft whistling noise when breathing, persistent cough and tightness of the chest, shortness of breath, sleeping problems due to coughing and breathing, and feeling tired after exercise. When these symptoms occur, it is time to consult the medical doctor. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and test results. Your doctor will figure out the severity of your asthma—whether it’s intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe. The treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on the level of severity.
Asthma is a long-term disease that has no cure. The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. Good asthma control will:
- Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms, such as coughing, and shortness of breath
- Reduce your need for quick-relief medicines (see below)
- Help you maintain good lung function
- Let you maintain your normal activity level and sleep through the night
- Prevent asthma attacks that could result in an emergency room visit or hospital stay
To control asthma, partner with your doctor to manage your asthma or your child’s asthma. Children aged 10 or older—and younger children who are able—should take an active role in their asthma care.
Taking an active role to control your asthma involves:
- Working with your doctor to treat other conditions that can interfere with asthma management.
- Avoiding things that worsen your asthma (asthma triggers). However, one trigger you should not avoid is physical activity. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Talk with your doctor about medicines that can help you stay active.
- Working with your doctor and other health care providers to create and follow an asthma action plan.
An asthma action plan gives guidance on taking your medicines properly, avoiding asthma triggers (except physical activity), tracking your level of asthma control, responding to worsening symptoms, and seeking emergency care when needed. Asthma is treated with two types of medicines: long-term control and quick-relief medicines. Long-term control medicines help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms. Quick-relief, or “rescue,” medicines relieve asthma symptoms that may flare up.
With the rise of new asthma patients being diagnosed, it is very important that we are aware of the dangers of asthma. Asthma identification and proper diagnosis are important to each individual. With the proper diagnosis, we can help reduce the incidence(s) of severe asthma attacks that go on unmanaged and ultimately that may lead to death. With the knowledge provided, we as a society can help manage and hopefully reduce severe asthma related incidences in America.
- Health wise, Incorporated (1995-2014). Health wise, Health wise for every health decision and the Health wise logo are trademarks of Health wise, Incorporated.
- HHS.gov US Department of Health & Human Resources
- Services National Department of Health and Human Services USA.gov
- Sinha T. David AK. Recognition and management of exercise-induced bronchospasm. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(4): 769-774. 675.