Since 1980, the incidence of asthma in the general population has more than doubled – from 3% to 7.5%, nearly 25 million people in the United States. Doctors have many theories about why the incidence of asthma is rising in the United States, but no definite answers. This has led many people to ask are there any new asthma treatments and why is it on the rise, especially in urban neighborhoods?
The two questions actually go hand in hand. Many of the new asthma treatments are based on some of the reasons that doctors believe asthma is on the rise. Here is at least a partial look at the answers to the questions “are there new asthma treatments and why is it on the rise?”
Ironically, some doctors believe that part of the reason that asthma is becoming more common is that there are far fewer major diseases for our immune systems to deal with. According to those doctors, our under-used immune systems overreact to minor stressors like allergens, triggering histamines and other inflammatory agents in the lungs. Once the lungs are inflamed, bringing the condition back under control can be a major effort.
There are other theories, of course. Even though the air quality in general has improved, for instance, there are more people than ever living in urban settings where they are exposed far more to the allergens that commonly trigger asthma – cockroaches, dust mites, mold and secondhand smoke. Add to that the fact that children lead far more sedentary lives than they used to, and spend far more time indoors – and exposed to allergens – and one very good possible answer to the question why is asthma on the rise is that children are exposed to the allergens that trigger asthma far more often these days.
The new asthma treatments are more than just new medicine – they’re a whole new way of looking at asthma and how to manage it. Rather than focusing on crisis management of acute asthma attacks, the new asthma treatments emphasize managing the disease by controlling the environment and daily medication to reduce the risk of acute attacks. These new treatments include once a day oral medications for children with chronic asthma, daily maintenance inhalers, education about asthma triggers and allergens for families and individuals dealing with asthma and outreach efforts that involve entire communities.
While there’s been a great deal of research on asthma and asthma medications over the past twenty years, there have been few new drugs developed to treat asthma. This is largely because the current class of inhaler drugs does work extremely well. Their biggest problem is that people don’t use them every day the way that they should. That’s why a major part of the new approach to treating asthma is to educate patients and families about what asthma is and how you can help prevent asthma attacks.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the new approach to treating asthma with education as well as medication does pay off. In a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, researchers found that children whose families were taught about asthma and how to manage asthma through environmental control had 37.8 more days without any symptoms of asthma than those who were just treated in the hospital and given a prescription.