Recently, the daughter of one of our friends died suddenly from an asthma attack. Apparently she had had a “mild” asthma diagnosis so everyone had many questions and were stunned to hear this sad news.
Ironically, the fact of the matter is that the “mild asthma” or “exercise induced” asthma diagnosis has a higher mortality rate so that term “mild” is rather a misnomer.
The reasons are multifactorial, but one of the main reasons is the lack of awareness and understanding of the disease.
Just because the frequency of “attacks” and symptoms are less does not mean that the severity of any other given attack can’t be deadly. For example, mild asthmatics do not usually need their inhalers on a daily basis but can at any given time have a severe flare that lands them in the emergency room unpredictably.
Not being aware of the disease process and not knowing or tracking baseline peak flows (measured with a simple meter at home) makes it more likely that a mild asthmatic patient will experience a severe event.
The other, more obvious reason is that patients with mild disease experience less symptoms overall or have such a slow, gradual progression of symptoms that they feel less need for their medications/inhalers and feel less need to check their asthma with health providers.
Conversely, the patients with “severe” asthma diagnosis get frequent checks, more aggressive treatment and visit their doctors more often.
So if you, your child or other loved one gets the clinical diagnosis of “mild” asthma, follow the 4 main tips below to reduce risk of complications.
1. Take asthma class and update your knowledge every 1-2 years at the very least.
2. Know and monitor your baseline peak flows (there are colored charts that can help)
3. Be aware of and minimize your exposure to asthma triggers which often include; seasonal allergies, cold air, exercise/emotional stress, smoke, perfumes or scented candles, etc
4. Get regular checks at least every 6-12 months, even when you feel well mostly for preventive care. You might need spirometry measurements, pulmonary function tests or vaccinations.
Think you might have asthma? Complete the asthma quiz and then take that information to your doctor for consultation.
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