Asthma kills 9 in U.S. every day: Louisiana teen’s death drives mother to organize walk for awareness _lowres

Advocate file photo -- Environmental factors, such as pollen, dust and smoke, can exacerbate asthma.

Living with asthma can be difficult.

Most asthmatics are diagnosed by the age of 4 or 5, and most never grow out of it, said Tracy Marquette, an asthma educator with Our Lady of the Lake.

To live safely with the chronic disease, Marquette makes the following recommendations:

Visit the doctor regularly. “I would tell parents with children who have asthma to make routine asthma follow-up visits even if your child is not sick,” Marquette said. The National Institutes of Health advises asthma sufferers to see their doctor every six months, even if they are not sick. Asthma is a chronic condition. Even if you are not feeling bad, your asthma may be worsening. “There are those people who do not perceive their asthma is bad,” Marquette said. “Those are the ones that are pretty scary.”

Unchecked asthma can become worse later in life. Asthma sufferers are 12 times more likely to develop emphysema, according to a 2004 study. “As you age, you want to make sure you control swelling (of the bronchial tubes) even if it doesn’t make you really sick,” Marquette said, “because what will happen is the lung tube will remodel into emphysema.”

Beware of asthma triggers. The environmental factors that worsen asthma are unique. “Just like your fingerprints are different, everybody’s triggers are different,” Marquette said. The most common triggers include smoke, pet dander, mold and dust. In Louisiana, cockroaches are common asthma and allergy triggers. “They die in the ceilings of buildings,” Marquette said. “The broken-down body parts of dead ones make us sick.”

Stay clean. Keep your house and car free of dust and pollen, Marquette said. Don’t “air out the house” by opening windows. Let the air conditioning filter the air. “If children are allergic to dust, they go outside and play, and the simplest thing you can do is take those clothes off and bathe that child when he comes inside the house,” Marquette said. “Don’t let that child go to sleep with dust and pollen on him.”

Know the ‘rules of two.’ Pediatric asthma specialists ask parents to follow these rules: If a child wakes up coughing and wheezing more than twice a month, the child needs daily asthma control medication, Marquette said. Also, if you use a rescue-type inhaler twice in a week, you need to see your doctor.