Posted by: menotmd | August 10, 2009

Get outta my face! I can’t breathe!

Everyone knows at least one person who has asthma. I know a couple. Since I was raised in a major urban center, and taught there as well, I became familiar with the phrase, “hold on, I gotta use my inhaler!!!”. One time, way back in the day, when I was in high school (no jokes please), two of my friends started wrestling fighting over a game of monopoly and then one of them had to pause to take a swig outta his inhaler. But get this, then they started fighting over whose property was the inhaler. They both have asthma and only one pump was around.

My high school friends are Puerto Rican and Dominican males and guess what? Asthma is prevalent among this population. I’ll be frank, if you immediately put a face to someone who is poor/lives in an urban area in the US, you’ll get an image of someone who has Asthma: Black, Puerto Rican, Irish, Filipinos, etc. But of course, you could tell me that they are not the only ones, I’ll believe you (especially in this economy). Men will know when they are young (but they may grow out of it). Us ladies, well, we will know when we are adults because asthma will probably persist throughout adulthood.

So what do we know about asthma?

We know that Asthma is a lung disease of the Obstructive Type (think Heimlich Maneuver). So our lungs do not properly function because something is blocking the airways. But in the spirit of red tape, or complicating things for the sake of clarity, Asthma is divided into two types:

The first one is intrinsic (or It’s like that, and that’s just the way it is, to borrow Run D.M.C. or the mechanism is unknown). Some folks have a type of asthma where the lungs just go into spasm. This is known as Bronchospasm (lungs=broncho/ spasm=sudden, jerky movements). Our lungs might decide to act up as a result from exercise, stress, cold temperatures (I had some students affected by this), from aspirin or a viral infection. Just think of our lungs in this context as a nervous person – any little thing makes them jump. You didn’t do anything wrong, the person is just nervous, so they are jumpy — this is the case with “twitchy airways.”

This second type is known as the extrinsic/hypersensitivity reaction type (or don’t breathe there’s a high pollen count today). Some folks have a type of asthma where they’ll be around a dog (or dust, molds, cat spit, etc.) and next thing you know there lungs will fill up with mucous. Mucous is a product of an immune response (mucous or phlegm or pus are the by-product of neutrophils, cells fighting allergic infections in our bodies). This is the most common type. If you have a family history of it, you’ll probably have it as well (check to see if daddy, mommy, Mima or Pop-pop have/had it) or have a good chance of having it. Or constantly being subjected to fumes at work could aggravate asthma.

So if you or someone you know have asthma, “what’s your next move?”

I’ve done some research and here are some decent links:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation This is a real cool site that features a certification program on products that are safe for the asthmatic.
MedlinePlus Asthma

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
National Library of Medicine has a cool link called Breath of Life
Global Initiative for Asthma
Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (CSEM) Environmental Triggers of Asthma
Check it out! The National Library of Medicine also has a cool Asthma Patient Education Tutorial. and given the prevelence of Asthma in my community, I put a link in espanol here.

I swear I’ll get it together enough to write my posts in spanish (because after all I AM trying to get this information out to everyone).



  1. awesome…nice info
    i’ll be back…

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