We do not understand why we experience asthma, and researchers are trying to figure out why. They suspect that viruses and indoor air quality may contribute to the increase. In 2010, the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Journal published a paper suggesting that low vitamin D levels may contribute to asthma increase. Vitamin D might block a cascade of proteins that trigger lung inflammation. This vitamin may also increase the production of anti-inflammatory proteins. Both of these actions can potentially lower asthma episodes. Some researchers suggest that more studies are needed to confirm these actions, while others suggest that we should check and maintain our vitamin D levels.2
What else can be done to help keep this genetic disease under control?
—Check with the doctor and establish a regimen to help prevent attacks. If medication is prescribed, learn when and how to use the medication appropriately. If a child has asthma, ensure the school nurse and teacher understand the condition and treatment plan.
—Provide an environment with minimal triggers. Dog and cat dander, tobacco smoke, mold, dust, and old air filters should be avoided as best as possible. Vacuum and change air and heating filters regularly; this can help keep the air clean.
—Minimize exposure to substances such as cleaners, paints, and varnishes because fumes from these substances can trigger asthma attacks.
—If exercising outdoors, avoid days when there is pollen in the air. During the winter, when the air is cold and dry, breathe through a scarf or mask so that the cold does not trigger an attack.
Presently, there is no cure, and the best way to control asthma is to prevent triggers. Understanding the disease and having a treatment plan is the best way to live healthily!
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Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.
1. Asthma in the US. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/Asthma. Accessed December 27, 2011.
2. Sandhu MS, and Casale TB. 2010. The role of vitamin D in asthma. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 105(3):191-199.