Georgann Yara

Asthma sufferers welcome new bronchial treatment

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The leaves may not turn deep shades of amber and auburn, but the crispness in the morning and night air signals fall in the Grand Canyon State.

For asthma sufferers, the cooler, dry climate means attacks are more likely. For children, those chances double with the onset of school and exposure to cold and flu viruses that can trigger an attacks.

Reports spike in the fall, calm down around the holidays because they are out of school, and spike in the spring again, explains Dr. Wayne Morgan, professor of pediatrics at the Arizona Respiratory Center, University of Arizona.

“As for the symptoms, the cold, dry air will cause those effects when exercising outside because it makes airways tighter. We don’t have the same magnitude here as they do on the East Coast, but asthma gets worse in the fall and winter.”

Most asthmatics use an albuterol inhaler to control or treat symptoms and a steroid to treat the disease.

In October, Pulmonary Associates researchers unveiled a new procedure aimed at treating asthma by funneling thermal energy into the airway walls. Conducted at John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital, bronchial thermoplasty reduces the amount of smooth muscle that contributes to constriction during an asthma attack.

“There is the potential this clinical trial may provide an alternative form of treatment that may benefit many asthma sufferers,” says Dr. Mark Gotfried, principal investigator of the study.

More than 20 million people in the United States have asthma. According to the American Lung Association, Hispanic communities tend to be more affected by environmental factors that can lead to lung diseases or trigger asthma attacks. The association study states that Hispanics are twice as likely as Anglos to live near high-traffic areas that produce high levels of air pollution.

Morgan says statistics show that Hispanics of Mexican-American descent have the same asthma rates as Anglos. Usually, socioeconomic factors have a greater impact than ethnicity, he says.

Asthmatics and their families should be aware of what Morgan calls the “Rule of Two” established by Baylor University. Asthma sufferers should not experience symptoms more than twice a week, should not be woken up from a sleep twice a month by symptoms and should not need more than two albuterol rescue inhalers a year. Treatments used as preventive maintenance do not count.

To help prevent symptoms, Morgan advises getting a flu shot and taking the usual precautions against germ spreading, including hand-washing. However, he also wants people to live as normal life as possible and says that with proper care, 95 percent of the disease can be controlled.

“Sometimes parents ask doctors to write a note excusing their child from P.E. But we write it saying they can play tennis or something else instead,” he says. “It’s important to have a normal life and not be limited.”

“Children should be able to play well, learn well and sleep well.”

For its study, Pulmonary Associations seeks volunteers who have asthma, are between the ages of 18-65, nonsmokers and take asthma medication daily. For information: visit www.AIR2Trial.com or (866) 400-AIR2.

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