May is World Asthma Month, and in an effort to raise awareness of diagnoses, treatments and other asthma-related issues, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals gathered for a one-day summit.
One of the goals is to draw attention to how many asthma sufferers there are in the Pittsburgh area.
“In our region it might be 15 to 18 percent of children with asthma, for example,” said Dr. David Skoner, director of the Division of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology at Allegheny Health Network. “We want to bring attention to how poorly it’s controlled, and we’d like to bring attention to how we can gain control through environmental manipulations and medications.”
About 50 percent of people with asthma have uncontrolled asthma, meaning they suffer daytime and nighttime symptoms three or more times a week, and asthma attacks occur on a weekly basis. Environmental factors are the main cause of asthma, which Skoner said could mean anything from higher pollen levels to pollution. As far as environmental controls — some are easy, others take bigger efforts.
“Environmental manipulation could mean going into your bedroom and encasing your mattresses,” said Skoner, “reducing humidity levels to cut down on dust mite exposure if you’re allergic to dust mites. It could mean staying indoors more in the springtime when the pollen counts are high, and it could mean trying to cut down on pollutants in our air.”
Asthma rates in Allegheny County are higher than those in the rest of the state and in the nation. Some of the issues tackled at the summit include the connection between the region’s air quality and asthma, what unique challenges doctors face in treating and managing asthma and what policies and community interventions could help asthma outcomes.
The one-day summit at Allegheny General Hospital was organized by Allegheny Health Network and The Breathe Project, a coalition of residents, businesses, government and other groups in southwestern Pennsylvania working on clean air issues.