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Breathing Easier: May is Asthma Awareness Month

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Photo: May is National Asthma Awareness Month, and health experts advise North Carolinians to reduce exposure to air pollution and allergens. Photo credit: Alviman/Morguefile.com
Photo: May is National Asthma Awareness Month, and health experts advise North Carolinians to reduce exposure to air pollution and allergens. Photo credit: Alviman/Morguefile.com
 By Stephanie CarsonContact
May 5, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - More than 100 people died from asthma in North Carolina in 2013, according to the most recent data available. Thousands more have the chronic disease of the respiratory system, which is made even more difficult by spring pollen and other allergens.

Karen Yeatts, co-chair of the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina, says in spite of the ability to treat the disease, it still presents a problem to thousands in the state.

"It's still an issue," says Yeatts. "People can still die from it, even though it's a completely manageable disease. If it's managed well, and we have good air quality, people can live healthy lives."

Asthma causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Air pollution is a major environmental trigger for asthma. Too much pollution during childhood can permanently reduce lung function. In North Carolina, ground-level ozone and particle pollution, mainly from vehicle emissions and coal-burning power plants, are also problems.

To prevent asthma attacks, experts recommend avoiding strong chemicals, odors and tobacco smoke in addition to mold, mildew and other known allergic triggers, explains Sally Herndon, spokeswoman with the N.C. Asthma Program.

"The person with asthma and their family can do a lot to reduce these asthma triggers by keeping the home clean, using HEPA filters, limiting things in the sleeping area that can collect dust or other triggers like pets or stuffed animals," she says.

According to the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina, one in 10 children, about 370,000, in the state have asthma, and in many cases, says Yeatts, they are untreated, or under-treated.

"In our state, a lot of children are still perhaps not getting optimal asthma care and management," she says.

More than 900,000 adults in North Carolina are diagnosed with asthma.

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