It’s that time of year again where allergies are out of control and asthma is flaring. In our area the pollens and mold have all been high and our little asthmatics sure are feeling it. According to a recent study, more women than men – 60 percent more – require hospitalization after emergency room visits for asthma.
The research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that there could be several explanations for these gender differences. Gender differences begin after puberty, so female sex hormones may play a role in this issue. There may also be differences in airway hyperactivity or in the way women perceive breathing difficulties. There are no cut-and-dry answers for these differences yet but further research is definitely needed to better understand asthma in female patients.
What the study did note was that of all patients seen in the emergency department or hospitalized for asthma there were some definite similarities. These three things are changeable risk factors for impending hospital trips:
Now, this is not new news to anyone with asthma: smoking will only compound the problem. If you currently smoke quitting can be tough. However, the rewards for not only asthma health but overall heath are so worth it. Talk with your physician about smoking cessation programs or possible medications to aid you in successfully kicking the habit.
Of the men and women hospitalized with asthma many were overweight. The pressure that additional weight puts on the body and lungs likely accounts for this issue. Greater body fat puts pressure on all of your organs and if you have asthma your lungs will likely feel the added squeeze Work with your physician and a dietitian to lose weight. Even a modest loss of 10 percent of your body weight–for someone who is 200 pounds that would be a 20 pound loss–can provide huge health benefits.
Not Working With an Allergist
Only 10 percent of the women hospitalized with asthma had seen an allergist in the previous calendar year. Studies have shown that asthma patients who have an allergist are more likely to use controller medications and other preventative steps to keep their asthma in check. An allergist can also delve into what your triggers are and even start you on allergy shots to desensitize you to your environmental triggers. If you have uncontrolled asthma and have not seen an allergist, what are you waiting for?
If one of these three controllable factors has you gasping for air it may be time for a heart-to-heart with your physician. A smoking cessation program, weight loss or referral to an allergist may be just what you need to breathe freely again.
_Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.