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Asthma Screening Program

Free Nationwide Asthma Screening Program Seeks Adults and Children with Breathing Problems

At-a-Glance

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. Adults and children who have symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath that occur frequently, during exercise or even just at night, can find out if they are at risk for asthma through the 14th annual Nationwide Asthma Screening Program.

Allergists, who are asthma specialists, will conduct free screenings at more than 200 locations across the country during National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month in May.

The program, sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) with support from Teva Respiratory, LLC, has screened an estimated 119,000 people and referred more than half for further diagnosis.

This year, ACAAI members are paying special attention to those who have difficulty breathing during or immediately after exercise and may have a condition called exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB).

“Often people who cough or get short of breath when they exercise don’t think of themselves as being at risk for asthma. The same goes for people who have a cough at night or get colds that settle in their chest,” said allergist John Winder, M.D., chair of the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program. “But any of these symptoms could be signs of asthma, and the screening program gives adults and children a chance to meet with an allergist who can help them identify the source of their suffering.

More than 22 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, have asthma. The disease is responsible for almost 4,000 deaths a year. Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, many treatments are available to control this chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs.

“With the right diagnosis and treatment, including medication, anyone with asthma can be active.”

John Winder, M.D., Chair, Nationwide Asthma Screening Program

An asthma attack is often triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander, certain drugs and food additives, respiratory infections and physical exertion such as exercise.

When people exercise, they often breathe rapidly through their mouth instead of their nose which warms and humidifies air. As a result, the cold, dry air that reaches the bronchial tubes can trigger asthma symptoms. These symptoms typically occur within five to 15 minutes from the start of exercise and may occur for several minutes after exercise has stopped. Between 80-90 percent of all people with asthma suffer some degree of exercise-induced bronchospasm.

“With the right diagnosis and treatment, including medication, anyone with asthma can be active,” said Dr. Winder. “No one should accept anything less. If you’ve experienced these symptoms or just want to make sure you have good control of your asthma, attend a free screening and find relief.”

Allergists, working with community physicians and allied health professionals, conduct the free asthma screenings at shopping malls, civic centers, health fairs and other accessible locations throughout the country. In addition to helping find those at risk for asthma, the screenings also offer people already diagnosed with the disease the chance to see if their condition is under control and can direct people who may be suffering from other breathing conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to seek a professional diagnosis.

During a screening, adults complete a 20-question Life Quality (LQ) Test developed by ACAAI for the program. Children under age 15 take a special test called the Kids’ Asthma Check that allows them to answer questions themselves about any breathing problems. Another version of the Check is available for parents of children up to 8 years of age to complete on their child’s behalf.

Participants also take a lung function test that involves blowing into a tube, and then meet with an allergist to determine if they should seek a thorough examination and diagnosis.

For a list of asthma screening locations and dates or to take online versions of the LQ Test and Kids’ Asthma Check, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.

Co-sponsoring the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program are two patient support organizations: the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics.