Early Spring Could Impact Asthma Sufferers

Sayre, Pa. – The potential for an early spring should be of concern to those who suffer from asthma, according to a Guthrie physician.

Donna Sandidge, MD, from the Guthrie Ithaca regional office, whose specialty interests are allergy and immunology, says that one of the primary triggers for asthma attacks is pollen. “Many asthma patients have an easier time with their illness during an atypical winter like this one because it doesn’t bring the bitter cold air that can trigger an attack. But the promise of an early spring brings with it the threat of a bumper crop of pollen. A longer spring can mean more frequent, and severe, asthma attacks.”

By definition, asthma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs which limits the person’s ability to breathe freely. Asthma attacks can be triggered by pet dander, cold air or exercise.

According to data from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, asthma is a serious medical condition accounting for 500,000 hospitalizations, 13 million missed school days and 10 million missed work days each year in this country. Asthma also kills more than 3300 people each year. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing. No particular age group is more prevalent for asthma and symptoms may fluctuate off and on from infancy through adulthood or begin late in life with no prior history.

Anthony Shadid, a New York Times reporter who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting from Iraq, died earlier this year from an apparent asthma attack while reporting in eastern Syria.

For many asthma sufferers, their symptoms are closely related to physical activity. Some otherwise healthy people can develop asthma symptoms only when exercising. This is called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Staying active is an important way to stay healthy, so asthma sufferers should work with their physician to develop a plan to keep symptoms under control before, during and after physical activity.

There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms can be controlled with effective asthma treatment and management. This involves taking medications as directed and learning to avoid triggers that cause asthma symptoms. An allergist will prescribe the best medications for a patient’s condition and provide specific instructions for using them. Controller medications are taken daily and include inhaled corticosteroids. Quick-relief or rescue medications are used to quickly relax and open the airways and relieve symptoms during an asthma flare-up, or are taken before exercising if prescribed. These include short-acting beta-agonists.

Dr. Sandidge says, “The best defense for an asthma sufferer is a detailed plan of treatment designed specifically for them by a physician with expertise in treating asthma.”  

Guthrie Health is a community-based, not-for-profit health care system jointly formed by Guthrie Healthcare System (GHS) and Guthrie Clinic, also not-for-profit health care organizations. GHS provides inpatient, outpatient and home-based services through Corning Hospital, Troy Community Hospital, Robert Packer Hospital, and Guthrie Home Care and Guthrie Hospice. Guthrie Clinic provides primary and specialty physician services at 25 regional clinics. Guthrie Health provides care for 200,000 patients annually within its eleven-county area service area across the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York.