Tracking Asthma and COPD

Asthma is a disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. The airways of a person with asthma narrow and swell and can produce extra mucous, making breathing difficult.

A person can get asthma at any age. Asthma affects all races, ages, and genders. Although asthma affects people of all ages, it often starts in childhood and is more common in children than in adults.

Asthma attacks and episodes are serious problems with breathing caused by certain triggers. These triggers can be found in both indoor and outdoor environments. The most common outdoor triggers are pollen, exercise, pollution, particulate matter, diesel fuel and pesticides. Indoor triggers for asthma include mold, dust, secondhand smoke and pet dander.

Environmental Pollutants Trigger Asthma Attacks

Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. Two key air pollutants can affect asthma. One is ozone, the other is fine particulate pollution.

Ozone is often worst on hot summer days, especially in the afternoons and early evenings. Particle pollution can be bad any time of year, even in winter. It can be especially bad when the weather is calm, allowing air pollution to build up. Particle levels can also be high near busy roads, during rush hour, around factories, and when smoke is in the air from wood stoves, fireplaces, or burning vegetation.

There are five steps people with asthma can take to help stay healthy and lead fully active lives:

  1. Complete an Asthma Action Plan
  2. Know the symptoms
  3. Know the triggers
  4. Avoid tobacco smoke
  5. Get a flu shot

Home-based multi-trigger interventions can be an effective strategy to protect health.


Reducing Exposure to Environmental Triggers

To avoid having asthma symptoms caused by environmental triggers you should minimize dust, control pet dander, and eliminate mold, allergens, and irritants in your home, school or workplace. Since air pollution can trigger asthma symptoms, you should be aware of pollution levels in your area and check air quality alerts before going outdoors or participating in strenuous outdoor activities. You can also sign up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) EnviroFlash to receive free automatic air quality forecasts to your e-mail, cell phone or pager.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In the United States, tobacco smoke is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD. Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role.