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Learn How to Control Asthma
It is important to learn how to control your own or your child's asthma! This page is intended to help answer some basic questions about asthma, and to help you find ways to learn more.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a life-long disease of the lungs where there is swelling and tightening in the airways.
There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms can be prevented and controlled with proper care.
People with asthma can live normal, active lives. Common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing and chest feeling tight.
How do I know if my/my child's asthma is under control?
- Do you/your child have asthma symptoms more than 2 days a week?
- Do you/your child take a rescue inhaler more than 2 times a week?
- Do you/your child wake up at night with asthma 1-3 times a week?
- Do you/your child find it hard to be active or to do daily activities?
- Have you/your child had to take steroid pills/syrup 2 or more times in the last year?
- Have you/your child needed to call 9-1-1, go to the ER, or stay at the hospital for asthma in the last year?
If you answered YES to any question, see a doctor right away.
Can people die from asthma?
Yes. 320 Michiganders died from asthma between 2017-2019. Most of the deaths happened in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
It is rare for someone to die from asthma. But, death can happen, even in people with mild asthma.
Talk to your/your child's doctor about any worries you have about asthma and how to get it under control.
What triggers asthma symptoms?
People who have asthma have airways that are very twitchy or sensitive. Triggers are the things that make asthma symptoms start. It's important to find out what your/your child's asthma triggers are and learn how to control them.
Common asthma triggers include: smoke (cigarette, marijuana, incense); pollen; mold; pet fur; and dust. Staying away from triggers is a big part of controlling asthma.
Each person can have different asthma triggers.
To help you find out what your/your child's asthma triggers are, it may help to keep an asthma diary, where you write down what you/your child were doing and where you were when symptoms started. This will help you find out if being near certain things causes your/your child's symptoms. For example, if the symptoms are worse when you make your bed or vacuum, dust mites may be a trigger.
When should I/my child go to the doctor for asthma?
You should have a doctor visit for asthma every year, where you make an asthma action plan together.
An asthma action plan tells you what to do to keep control of your/your child's asthma and what to do if symptoms start or get very bad. Many doctors like you to call them at the first sign that symptoms are getting worse.
You will need a new asthma action plan every time medications used to treat your/your child's asthma are changed.
Asthma Medicines and Tools
There are many ways to treat asthma.
Inhalers or puffers make medicine go right to the lungs, and pills/syrup go through the whole body before getting to the lungs.
There are two main kinds of asthma medicines:
- Long-term control medicine is used every day to keep the swelling in the lungs down. Your doctor may tell you to use this medicine, or more of this medicine, when you have symptoms, too.
- Rescue medicine is used when symptoms start. These should not be needed very often when asthma is under control.
Most rescue medicines - and some long-term control medicines - need to be used with a spacer to make sure the most medicine gets to the lungs. Michigan Medicaid plans allow four spacers every year, and you can get them at the pharmacy.
Sometimes, medicine for allergies or reflux helps prevent asthma symptoms. If symptoms get bad enough, the doctor may tell you/your child to take steroid pills or syrup. No matter what the doctor tells you to take, be sure you know exactly how and when to take it.
Ask questions about how to use your inhaler at the doctor's office and pharmacy. Ask your doctor for an asthma action plan that tells you when and how to use each medicine.
How can I get help for my/my child's asthma?
The best place to get help for asthma is at the doctor's office. It's a good idea to have a talk with the doctor about the things that make it hard for you to take care of your/your child's asthma.
There are lots of ways to get help for asthma. But, if you don't talk about it, then they can't help you find ways to make things easier.
If you don't have a doctor, you can get one by calling your health plan or a local Federally Qualified Health Center.
In Genesee, Ingham, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, there are programs that offer one-on-one help with an asthma educator. Visits by these MATCH (Managing Asthma Through Case-management in Homes) programs are often paid for by Medicaid health plans.
Quick facts about people in your area who have hospital visits for asthma
- Ingham County: There are an average of 137 hospital visits each year for asthma. Adults made about 88 of these visits, and children had 49. Blacks have hospital visits four times as often as whites. (Source: 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
- Wayne County: Adults have hospital visits for asthma about twice as often as the state rate, while children have hospital visits for asthma about three times as often as the state rate. Blacks have hospital visits five times more often than whites. (Source: 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
- Genesee County: From 2018-2020, children in Genesee have the highest rate of hospital visits in the state. Adults have hospital visits for asthma about 1.3 times as often as the state average. Blacks have hospital visits five times as often as whites. (Source: 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
- Muskegon County: One in 10 adults have asthma. Blacks have hospital visits for asthma five times as often as whites. (Sources: 2019-2021 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey and 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
- Saginaw County: Children have hospital visits for asthma more than twice as often as the state average for hospital visits, and adults have hospital visits for asthma about 1.2 times as often as the state rate. Blacks have hospital visits four times as often as whites. (Source: 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
- Washtenaw County: About one in 10 adults have asthma. There are an average of 139 hospital visits each year for asthma. Blacks have hospital visits five times as often as whites. (Sources: 2019-2021 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey and 2018-2020 Michigan Inpatient Database)
How can I learn more about asthma?
- Asthma Basics - a free, one-hour online asthma class from the American Lung Association (ALA); available in English or Spanish
- Asthma Care for Adults - a free, online asthma training from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA); includes seven self-paced lessons
- GetAsthmaHelp.org - a Michigan asthma website with lots of information for families with asthma
- Michigan asthma data- learn more about who has asthma and where they live in Michigan
- Asthma in schools - learn how asthma should be managed in school, with Michigan tools and resources
Oral (Mouth) Health and Asthma
Asthma InfographicsSome asthma medicines need to be used with spacers to get more of the medicine in your lungs where it’s needed. If you have Michigan Medicaid insurance, you can get 4 spacers every year at the pharmacy. Learn more with this infographic.michigan inhaler infographic
References for Infographics
Marijuana and Asthma
- Chatkin, J.M., Zani-Silva, L., Ferreira, I. et al. Cannabis-Associated Asthma and Allergies. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol 56, 196–206 (2019)
- Secondhand Marijuana Smoke Fact Sheet
- Cannabis attitudes and patterns of use among followers of the Allergy & Asthma Network
- American Lung Association - Marijuana and Lung Health
- Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Tobacco Section, The Dangers of Secondhand & Thirdhand Smoke
- Michigan Oral Health Coalition, Check-Up on Oral Health: A Call to Action 2020 (pdf)
- Association between asthma and severe tooth loss in the adult population of the United States
- Association between asthma and caries-related salivary factors: a meta-analysis
- Association between asthma and periodontal disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis
- Association between asthma and dental caries in US (United States) adult population
- Prevalence Estimates for Risk Factors and Health Indicators - Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (2019) (pdf)
- American Dental Association, Mouth Healthy website; Erosion: Stomach Upset and Your Teeth
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)