May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, as designated by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). According to the AAFA:
- 10 people per day die of asthma
- More than 24.5 million Americans have asthma, with over 6 million of them children under age 18
- 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies
As the incidence of asthma and allergy is on the rise, so is the cost of care. Direct and indirect costs are related to medications, hospitalizations, missed work or school days, and lost productivity. Researchers have estimated the annual cost of asthma care in the United States at $56 billion.
There is no cure for asthma or allergies. It is therefore essential to identify symptom onset factors such as time of year, food, and environmental triggers to minimize and manage allergy and asthma exacerbations. Tips for nurses and other healthcare workers to minimize exacerbations include:
- Assisting patients to identify and avoid their triggers. Keeping a diary of allergy and asthma events and associated factors (food, weather, etc.) may help patients avoid situations that trigger the onset of allergic or asthmatic occurrences.
- Ensuring patients carry an emergency medical kit that includes emergency medications, contact numbers for providers and family members, and personal health information.
- Urging patients to wear identification bracelets.
- Providing support group information.
On a personal note, I have a very close relative over age 65 who was diagnosed with asthma several years ago. Her triggers tend to be environmental and emotional – exposure to environmental allergens is much easier to manage than anxiety, which is her primary emotional trigger. Because she tends to discount her acute and chronic anxiety as an asthma trigger, I have found that helping her connect the physiological changes associated with high anxiety to the physiological symptoms of asthma have helped her better manage her asthma.
Have a safe and allergy-free spring!