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Omron Micro-Air Electronic Nebulizer System NE-U22V1
PARI LC Sprint Reusable Nebulizer Set
Medquip Penguin Nebulizer System
Handi-Air Tote Wheeled Oxygen Carrier
Respironics EasyLife Nasal CPAP Mask - no longer selling
Health-Ox Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Dust mites, the microscopic parasites which feed on dead skin and hair left behind by humans, are one of the world’s most common asthma and allergy triggers. So a new study from England decided to test if asthmatic children would fare better when using mite-proof mattress and pillow covers.
The study monitored 284 children over the course of a year. Some were given mite-proof covers, while others were given placebo covers. The researchers found that 42% of the children given the placebo had a severe asthma attack which required a hospital visit, whereas only 29% of the children with the mite-proof covers had to visit the hospital due to an asthma attack.
However, the children with the mite-proof covers did not experience a significant reduction in asthma attacks treated outside the hospital. Based on this, the researchers think mite-proof covers may not reduce the overall number of asthma attacks, just their severity.
“Asthma exacerbations are among the most common reasons for hospitalizing children living in the developed world,” said Dr. Clare Murray, a lecturer at the University of Manchester and the study’s lead author. “It’s a frightening experience for children and their parents, and a single exacerbation can increase the annual cost of treating asthma by threefold.”
Bedding designed to reduce allergies and asthma can be purchased on our site at http://justnebulizers.com/respiratory-care/allergy-care-bedding.html. The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
A new study from the University of Leicester in the UK is giving scientists a clearer understanding of how a protein called high-mobility group box 1, or HMGB1 for short, plays a pivotal role in asthma.
During an asthma attack, the lining of one’s airways become inflamed, and more mucus is produced, making it harder to breath. HMGB1 is a protein which, among other things, promotes inflammation.
“We have shown that the amount of HMGB1, a protein that can be released in the airways by cells involved in inflammation or by damaged cells, is increased in the mucous from the airways of people with severe asthma,” said Dr. Ruth Sander, the lead author of the new study. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to show a direct effect of HMGB1 on enhancing airway muscle contraction in response to stimuli. The findings of this research bring us a step closer to improved treatments for people with severe asthma.”
It’s currently unclear how the new findings on HMGB1 can be used to create new asthma treatments, but the better scientists understand the disease, the better they’ll be able to fight it.
Asthma affects an estimated 25 million people in the United States alone, and appears to be on the rise. You can protect yourself from this potentially fatal disease by creating an Asthma Action Plan, taking prescribed nebulizer treatments, and always carrying your rescue inhaler.
Taking heartburn medication while pregnant may increase your child’s risk of developing asthma, according to a review of studies recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The review looked at eight different studies with a combined total of more than 1,600,000 participants. It found that children whose mothers took H2 blockers such as Pepcid and Tagamet while pregnant had a 46% increased risk of asthma development. Children whose mothers took proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec and Nexium had a 30% increased risk.
But don’t stop taking any medications just yet. “It is important to stress that this research is at a very early stage, and expectant [mothers] should continue to take any medication they need under the guidance of their doctor or nurse,” said Samantha Walker, policy and research director at Asthma UK. She went on to explain that they “don’t yet know if the heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in children, or if there is a common factor we haven’t discovered yet that causes both heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children.”
However, the review’s lead author Dr Aziz Sheikh recommended that pregnant women manage their heartburn with lifestyle or diet changes when possible. And when medication is needed, he recommended first trying “milder treatments like chewable antacid tablets.”
Thunderstorm asthma has been in the news a lot lately, after a recent case in Melbourne, Australia sent around 8,500 people to the emergency room and killed 8.
What exactly is thunderstorm asthma?
During a thunderstorm, winds pick up grass, tree, and weed pollens that under normal circumstances would be too big to breath in. The moisture from the storm then breaks the pollens into tiny, breathable pieces while the winds spread them through the air where they can be breathed in.
If you or a loved one has asthma, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from thunderstorm asthma.
1. Have an Asthma Action Plan in place
2. Make sure to keep up with your nebulizer treatments and take your preventative medications as prescribed.
3. If you have pollen allergies, this can also trigger an asthma attack so be sure to keep your allergies under control by taking antihistamines or nasal sprays.
4. Stay inside during the storm.
5. If you were outside right before the storm, shower and wash your clothes to remove any pollen.
6. Carry your rescue inhaler and use it as soon as you notice symptoms. As Janet Davies Ph.D. and head of the Allergy Research group at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane says, “Do not wait to see if symptoms go away on their own. Inhalers deliver medication quickly and directly to inflamed and congested airways.”
We don’t know exactly what causes asthma, but it seems to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
One of the many genetic factors scientists have linked to an increased asthma risk is gene variants located on chromosome 17 at region 2 band 1, aka 17q21. A recent study from Switzerland has shown that infants with 17q21 gene variants are 27% less likely to have asthmatic respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness on the weeks they are breastfed.
The study looked at 368 infants who were part of the Basel-Bern Infant Lung Development birth cohort. The researchers gathered data on the infants’ respiratory symptoms, breastfeeding status, and genetic profile.
“As research in this field progresses, we are understanding more and more about the gene-environment interaction for the development of asthma,” said Dr. Olga Gorlanova, one of the study’s researchers. “Our study sheds light on how this interaction can be modified by breastfeeding. This is the first time that we were able to show the effect of the 17q21 variants on respiratory symptoms during the first year of life, depending on breastfeeding status. Our results must be replicated by another cohort.”
If these results can be replicated, it may help the thousands of infants around the world living with asthma, one of the most common chronic childhood diseases.
Fall is here and along with the changing leaves and cooling weather come a variety of new asthma and allergy triggers to watch out for.
Trigger #1: Weed Pollen
At the end of summer, weed pollen levels begin to rise and can trigger allergic and asthmatic reactions. Common weed pollens include the pollen from ragweed, cockleweed, pigweed, Russian thistle, sagebrush and even tumbleweed.
What You Can Do:
Pollen levels are highest between 10am and 3pm, so if you can stay indoors during that time it will help. If you take allergy medicine for weed pollens, start taking it when pollen season starts; don’t wait for the symptoms to hit.
Trigger #2: Mold
Although mold grows year round, it’s most active in the fall. The most common asthma-triggering molds include alternaria, aspergillus, and cladosporium.
Mold grows both indoors and outdoors, but the type of mold that most commonly triggers asthma is outdoor mold. So you can reduce your exposure by keeping your windows closed. Dead leaves are also a breeding ground for mold, so pay someone else or ask a non-asthmatic family member to rake them for you.
Trigger #3: Cold Air
The cold air itself can cause your airways to constrict, possibly triggering asthma.
Stay inside where it’s warm when possible, and when you go out wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth to help warm up the air you breathe.
Trigger #4: Fireplace / Bonfires
Fall is a fun time of year to build a bonfire or snuggle up next to the fireplace. Unfortunately, smoke is an asthma trigger for many people.
If you can’t avoid bonfires altogether, at least avoid standing too close and make sure not to stand downwind from the fire. As for fireplaces, if you can heat your home via another means that should help. If not, getting your fireplace professionally cleaned can also improve the situation.
Trigger #5: The Cold and Flu
The common cold and the flu are two of the most common asthma triggers and, unfortunately, fall is a popular time for them as well.
Get a flu shot. Also, make sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. This is especially important when you’re in public places like an office or school.
I see you sell humidifiers. Can you tell me the difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer?
Humidifiers and Vaporizers share many similarities. They both create a mist and add moisture to the air around you. This can help combat symptoms such as dry nasal passages, nosebleeds, congestion, and itchy skin.
The two major differences between these devices are--
1). Their intended purpose
Vaporizers are often used to turn plant extracts, oils, and other substances into a breathable mist that can be inhaled. With most vaporizers, the mist is dispersed throughout the room and therefore vaporizers are not a reliable form of medication delivery. For that, you need a nebulizer.
Unlike vaporizers, humidifiers are simply meant for adding moisture to the room and not turning extracts into a breathable form.
2.) How they work
Vaporizers use heat to release a warm steam vapor into the air. Because of this, they can be a safety risk for children who might knock them over and get burnt. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about adding bacteria from the water you’re using into the air as it will get boiled out.
Humidifiers use a wicking filter to extract cold water from a basin, and then use a fan to disperse that water throughout a room. For both humidifiers and vaporizers, it’s important to keep them clean so they remain safe and effective.
How are the children's nebulizers mechanically different from the adult nebulizers? Can my child use a nebulizer meant for an adult?
There are no mechanical differences between children’s nebulizers and adult nebulizers. Both children and adults can use either type of nebulizer.
The difference is simply in design. Children’s nebulizers are made to be kid friendly and colorful, often featuring fun animal shapes. This makes nebulizer treatments more fun and less intimidating to children. If you’re looking for a good nebulizer for a child, here are three we highly recommend--
1. Medquip Children’s Nebulizers
Medquip offers a variety of fun kid friendly nebulizers, including the popular Medquip Penguin Nebulizer, the Medquip Panda Nebulizer which comes in both black and white and pink, the interactive Medquip Fire Engine Nebulizer which comes complete with a moving ladder and wheels, and the Medquip Building Block Nebulizer which includes building block sets to make treatment time more fun for your child.
2. PARI TREK S
Another great children’s nebulizer is the PARI TREK S. It features a piston pump that is small, lightweight, and quiet so it doesn’t scare children. It also offers shorter treatments; the average is only 5 minutes when you use your PARI TREK S with the included LC Sprint nebulizer set. And it’s extremely portable! It offers both home and car power adapters, a multi-voltage power adapter that’s great when traveling in Europe, and you have the option of purchasing a rechargeable battery.
3. Sami the Seal
As its name suggests, Sami the Seal is a fun seal-shaped nebulizer. Sami is bright blue and has a friendly, inviting smile. Plus, she’s built with a practical bottom-heavy design to keep kids from knocking her over. And she was made to work with the Philips Respironics sidestream reusable nebulizer to give your child extra fast treatments. Perfect for children who don’t want to sit still for long nebulizer treatments.
People often ask us, “Which nebulizer is best to use for colloidal silver?”
First, a warning about colloidal silver. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Colloidal silver isn’t considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make. Silver has no known purpose in the body.”
Or, as the National Institutes of Health put it, “There are no high quality studies on the health effects of taking colloidal silver, but we do have good evidence of its dangers… Claims made about the health benefits of taking colloidal silver aren’t backed up by studies.” This has not stopped colloidal silver manufacturers and homeopaths from making wild claims about breathing colloidal silver. Some claim it can quickly cure pneumonia and bronchitis. Others claim it can prevent cancer.
Unlike the unproven health benefits of colloidal silver, the negative side effects are proven. The most common is argyria, which causes a blue/gray discoloration in one’s skin, eyes, nails, gums, and even internal organs. Colloidal silver also causes poor absorption of certain drugs.
So the answer to the question “Which nebulizer is best to use for colloidal silver?” is-- you probably shouldn’t be nebulizing colloidal silver. That being said, if you chose to do so anyway, you’ll need a strong nebulizer like the Pari Vios Pro or the Philips Respironics Innospire Elegance. And if you chose to nebulize colloidal silver you’ll need to change your nebulizer set more frequently.
On May 14th Robbie Grayson had an asthma attack and nearly died. He may have to, if it wasn’t for his daughter Edith.
Edith Grayson woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of her father having an asthma attack. Robbie tried his inhaler, and his nebulizer, but neither of them could stop the attack. Within a few minutes, Robbie had passed out in the bathroom and his pulse had stopped. Edith and her mother began panicking.
Fortunately, Edith had learned CPR at her high school just a week before. She sprung into action, called 911, and started performing chest compressions as a dispatcher talked her through the process. Edith’s mother was so panicked Edith had to kick her out of the bathroom to concentrate. Her training and actions paid off. Edith successfully got her dad breathing again before the paramedics arrived.
“I didn’t think I was going to have to use that,” Edith said of her CPR training. “But since I did, and I had the tools, I can’t take credit for that.”
Robbie Grayson spent two days in the hospital before being released. Edith, currently a junior, is now considering a career in nursing.
May is Cystic Fibrosis month, and this May a diverse group of people around the world have been working to raise funds for cystic fibrosis research and treatment.
In Kansas City, Missouri former pro wrestler and current Brazilian jiu-jitsu champ Travis Conley teamed up with local restaurant Longboards Wraps and Bowls to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Since 2014, Longboards has sold the “T-Money Wrap-n-Tap” named after Travis’s wrestling alter ego “T-Money.” This May, Longboards will donate $1 for every T-Money wrap that gets sold, and Travis himself will match that donation.
Travis was inspired to battle cystic fibrosis by his niece who has lived with the condition her whole life.
Meanwhile in Nepal, British climber Nick Talbot has raised well over $100,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust by becoming the first person with cystic fibrosis to climb Mount Everest. This was Nick’s third attempt. The first two ended in disaster, not due to his condition but because of the climb’s inherent dangers. Nick’s 2014 attempt ended when 16 guides were killed in climbing accidents. His 2015 attempt ended when an avalanche nearly killed Nick.
And in Texas, five rock bands got together for the annual Rock Away Cystic Fibrosis Music Festival to raise money to support those with cystic fibrosis in Brazos Valley and to fund cystic fibrosis research. This year’s lineup included Grammy nominated artist John Fullbright.
This year, a study from the Netherlands found that in a group of 650 children diagnosed with asthma, 54% did not actually have it. A 2008 study from Canada found that in a group of 540 individuals diagnosed with asthma, 32% did not have it. And a 1996 study from Australia found that in a group of kids who had chronic coughs, a whopping 90% of those diagnosed with asthma did not have it.
So, why are there so many misdiagnoses?
Properly diagnosing asthma takes a lot of time and is a hassle that many doctors and patients don’t want to put up with. Peak lung flow, airflow obstruction, and airway inflammation should all be measured. Then the patient should start taking asthma medication. Then peak lung flow, airflow obstruction, and airway inflammation should all be measured again to conclusively show that the medication had an effect.
Many doctors believe asthma is relatively easy to diagnose and therefore all these tests are a waste of time and money. And in many cases, they’re correct.
However, a misdiagnosis of asthma can cause a patient real problems. As a side effect, corticosteroids, a popular asthma medication people take through a nebulizer or inhaler, suppress the activity of immune cells in one’s airways. To make matters worse, the less one’s airways are inflamed, the more corticosteroid they’ll absorb, meaning the side effects are the worst for the people who benefit from corticosteroids the least.
Hopefully in the future more careful diagnosing and more accurate asthma tests will curb the problem of overdiagnosing.
According to a new report, increased exposure to sunshine during the second trimester of pregnancy lowers the child’s likelihood of developing asthma.
This report comes not from a group of scientists but from economists at the University of Kansas. They heard about a hypothesis by physicians and Harvard professors Augusto Litonjua and Scott Weiss that suggested vitamin D levels during the second trimester would “influence the probability that a fetus will develop asthma later in life.” So the economists decided to put the hypothesis to the test, using health data, weather data, and surveys.
They looked at when and where asthmatics were born, then looked back even further to see what the weather would have been like in that area when the asthmatics’ mothers were in their second trimester. “If that place is relatively more sunny during the second trimester, we found relatively lower rates of asthma,” said David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas.
Their report suggests that spending 10 minutes in the sun every day to soak up some vitamin D could help pregnant mothers lessen their child’s likelihood of developing asthma. That being said, many prenatal vitamins already include vitamin D. Nonetheless, sunshine is free and could save our health system, and parents, the cost of dealing with asthma later on.
Last month, Indiana congressman Peter Visclosky honored two seventh grade students, Sydn’e Duncan and Jalen Tinco, for saving their teacher’s life.
M’onique Hutchinson teaches language arts at Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, Indiana. She has lived with asthma her whole life and is allergic to certain scents, including cologne. Fortunately, at the beginning of the school year, she taught her class what to do in case anyone had an asthma attack. When Hutchinson herself had an attack, her students remembered what to do and sprung into action.
First, Duncan noticed one of her classmates was wearing cologne. She got the student out of class and wiped down the student’s chair. By this point Hutchinson was already unwell and having trouble breathing. Her inhalers weren’t doing the trick, so Tinco ran down the hall and got two other teachers. They called 911, cleared the halls, and got Hutchinson to an ambulance.
“For them to do what they did for me, I owe them my life, and I’m thankful for that,” Hutchinson said of her students. She believes that every school should have an asthma action plan in place in case a student or teacher has an attack. As her experience has proven, a good asthma action plan can save lives.
Kids who regularly drink raw, unprocessed milk are less likely to develop asthma than kids who drink industrially processed milk, says a new joint study by researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) and Marburg University.
The study is part of a long term research project called PASTURE which has been following more than 1,000 children growing up in rural areas. The mothers record their children’s illnesses and nutrition from birth to age 6. Then researchers go through all the data. While doing so, researchers found that kids who regularly drink unprocessed milk had much lower asthma rates. Why?
“The effect can be partly explained by the higher overall fat content and the higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in farm milk,” explained Tabea Brick, a member of LMU’s research team. Omega-3 fatty acids aid in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory substances in the body. They are also believed to promote good health. But the human body can’t make these acids itself, so they have to be acquired from other sources, in this case unprocessed milk.
However, researchers warned that they do not recommend children drink unprocessed milk as it contains harmful micro-organisms. When raw milk goes through industrial processing-- pasteurization, homogenization, etc.-- the harmful organisms are removed, but so are much of the omega-3 fatty acids. So what’s the solution? The researchers are arguing for milder processing methods that will allow milk to retain the omega-3 fatty acids while still getting rid of the dangerous micro-organisms.
When asthmatic 13 year old Alexis Kyle started wheezing and gasping during gym class, her classmate Indiyah Rush offered her her inhaler, preventing an asthma attack. When school administrators found out, they suspended both girls and sentenced them to 30 days at an alternative school following their suspension. Why? Because of the school’s zero tolerance policy regarding controlled substances, in this case asthma medication.
“I was just trying to save her life,” said Rush. “I didn’t think I was trying to do anything bad.”
The story soon got picked up by news sources and blogs, and the school has been heavily criticized for its decision. Chris Moore, a spokesperson for the Garland Independent School District where Rush and King attend classes, tried to explain the rationale behind the school’s decision saying, “It’s a prescription and one student’s severity with asthma may not mirror that of the girl who let the other borrow hers and that could have resulted in some pretty significant issues.”
Not surprisingly, Rush’s mother Monique Rush felt that the school's decision was senseless. “I mean they punished her twice. They suspended her on top of sending her to alternative school. I mean how could you do… that?”
The school reversed their decision on Kyle after her parents filed an appeal. Rush’s parents have not yet filed an appeal. Garland Independent School District said they would count the three days of suspension as excused absences, but also claimed the incident would be recorded in both student's’ “permanent file.”
A new study published in Pediatrics shows a correlation between prenatal exposure to beta-agonists, one of the most common types of asthma medication, and the likelihood of the child developing autism. Beta-agonists are included in many asthma drugs including albuterol, formoterol (Foradil), and salmeterol (Serevent).
The researchers were careful to point out that 1) the study does not prove cause and effect between beta-agonists and autism, and 2) even if there is a cause and effect relationship, it’s still important that pregnant mothers continue taking their asthma medication. Not having properly controlled asthma during pregnancy can lead to poor birth outcomes such as the baby needing to be admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit. It can also lead to low birth weight and preterm birth, both of which have themselves been linked to increased autism risk.
The study was performed by looking through Denmark’s national database and comparing the medical data of 5,200 children with autism spectrum disorder to 52,000 children without autism. The researchers found that 4% of children with autism had had been exposed to beta-agonists before birth, whereas 3% of children without autism had been.
Once other factors, such as birth complications, had been controlled for the numbers showed that children exposed to beta-agonists were 30% more likely to develop autism. However, it’s important to note that the researchers were unable to control for all factors, including some important ones like exposure to pollutants.
Though the study may not provide practical information for mothers, if further research reveals that there is indeed a cause and effect relationship between beta-agonists and autism risk, it could help scientists better understand how autism works.
ADAMM is about the size of a hockey puck. It uses an adhesive to stick to the the front or back of your torso, kind of like a nicotine patch. Unlike a nicotine patch, however, it might just save your life.
ADAMM stands for Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management. It was invented by Health Care Originals and its prototype premiered at CES 2016 (Consumer Electronics Show) last week. ADAMM monitors its wearer’s breathing, coughing, and heart rate to predict when an asthma attack might occur. If one seems likely, it messages the wearer through a mobile app so the wearer can take the proper steps, such as taking their asthma medication, to avoid an attack. If the wearer is a child, ADAMM can text the warning to their parent or guardian.
In addition, the app can send medication reminders to its user and track the user’s stats over time to see if there are any important trends. The users can share this information with their doctor if they so choose. At night, ADAMM is taken off to recharge. It then listens to its user’s breathing to monitor for any breathing difficulty.
Ran Gao, co-founder of Health Care Originals, feels the device will be particularly useful to children who aren’t always disciplined enough to take their medication and can’t always sense an upcoming asthma flare up.
Currently, Health Care Originals is seeking FDA approval for ADAMM. They hope to launch the device commercially later this year.
If you have asthma as a kid you’re 70% more likely to get shingles as an adult, says a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. A group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic looked at the medical records of 371 patients with shingles and 742 control patients who did not have shingles. They found that 23% of the patients with shingles had asthma, whereas just 15% of the patients without shingles had asthma.
“Asthma represents one of the five most burdensome chronic diseases in the US, affecting up to 17% of the population,” said Dr. Young Juhn, the lead author of the study. “The effect of asthma on the risk of infection or immune dysfunction might very well go beyond the airways.”
Dr. Juhn and his colleague’s theory is that because asthma suppresses adaptive immunity, it also increases the patient’s risk of varicella zoster virus reactivation. Varicella zoster virus is what causes chickenpox in children. When the child overcomes chickenpox, varicella zoster remains in their nerve tissue near the brain and spinal cord. Usually, the virus stays dormant. But occasionally it will get reactivated, causing shingles.
Fortunately, there is a zoster vaccine which can reduce the risk of shingles. According to Dr. Juhn, “As asthma is an unrecognized risk factor for zoster in adults, consideration should be given to immunizing adults aged 50 years and older with asthma… as a target group for zoster vaccination.”
After decades of perpetual increase, childhood asthma rates are finally going down in the United States. These results come from a thirteen year long study started in 2001 involving over 150,000 children. The study was lead by Dr. Lara Akinbami from the National Center for Health Statistics. The results were published in the journal of Pediatrics two weeks ago.
From 1980 to 1995, childhood asthma rates doubled in the US in part because of increasing awareness and diagnosis of the disease. The new study shows that rates continued to increase until they hit a peak at 9.3% in 2010. After that, the rate began to decrease and was at 8.3% when the study ended in 2013.
However, asthma rates vary across ages, races and regions. The most significant decline in asthma rates were seen in children below age 5, Mexican children, Midwestern children, and children from families that weren’t poor. Asthma rates stayed roughly the same in black children, and white children from the Northwest and West. Asthma rates increased in children aged 10 to 17, children from the South, and children from poor families.
It is unknown what factors have caused asthma to decline overall. One possibility is that air pollution in the United States has also declined over the last several years. Either way, the study is good news. Although, Dr. Akinbami warns, “We’re cautious because we never know what the next year is going to show.”
New Year’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year to come. If you’ve struggled with asthma management this past year, here are five New Year’s resolutions that can help you have a healthier, happier 2016.
1. Create/Update Your Asthma Action Plan
Everyone living with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan. If you don’t have one, talk to your healthcare provider about creating one. If you do, now is the perfect time to make sure it’s up to date for your current asthma situation.
2. Use Peak Flow Meters to Monitor Your Asthma
Peak flow meters help you monitor your asthma and can detect problems long before you notice the symptoms. Just blow into the device, and it will measure your lung function. Daily readings let you know how effective your asthma management is and when an asthma attack is more likely to occur.
3. Get Exercise
Exercise strengthens your lungs and increases your overall health. Talk to your healthcare provider about an exercise plan that’s right for you. And don’t forget your rescue inhaler.
4. Get the Flu Shot
The flu is a major asthma trigger. Getting a flu shot not only helps guard against an asthma attack; it also stops the flu from spreading and affecting the more vulnerable members of the population.
5. Quit Smoking
If you smoke, the new year is a perfect time to quit. Quitting smoking will be a huge help to your asthma management. It also helps your lungs and heart, and lowers your risk of cancer and diabetes. There are many great tools, products and programs to help you quit, including Freedom From Smoking Online.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder or COPD is a progressive disease that obstructs airflow and makes breathing difficult. Fortunately, doctors and patients now have an unexpected new tool for fighting this illness: the recorder.
Colleen Grabowski coordinates pulmonary rehabilitation classes at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital. One day she read an article about how harmonicas can help patients breathe better. She looked into getting harmonicas for the program, but learned they were too expensive.
Then, Grabowski came up with a simple, effective solution-- why not use recorders? She already knew how to play them from when she was in school, and they can be bought in bulk at low prices.
Playing wind instruments helps COPD patients strengthen and practice using their diaphragm. It’s similar to the common COPD exercise pursed lip breathing. And sound waves produced by instruments have been known to break up chunks of mucus in patient’s lungs. All these things work together to make playing the recorder a helpful COPD treatment.
And according to Grabowski, there’s another major advantage to using the recorder-- it’s fun. “We don’t care what we sound like, just that we play the recorders and have a great time,” she said in an interview. “It’s something patients look forward to doing.” Favorite songs include the classic hit Hot Cross Buns.
One of the patients, Janet Jones, says the recorder has improved her breathing, and she can now blow deeper and longer. She looks forward to completing the class and also to playing the recorder with her granddaughter.
Asthma rates continue to grow around the world. In the US, about 1 out of every 10 children now has the potentially life threatening condition. Although there are still many mysteries surrounding the disease, it’s long been known that physical factors such as pollen, dust, pet dander, pollution, smoke, and mold can both trigger the condition and contribute to its development. But new research suggests that psychological factors such as stress, neighborhood violence, and abuse can be just as influential in asthma development.
How? Asthma occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to irritants. When children are exposed to too much stress for too long, their adrenal glands overproduce the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals shift the body’s immune system into overdrive, fueling numerous health issues including asthma.
A recent study showed that kids who face one traumatic event at home (divorce, death of a parent, abuse, etc) are 28% more likely to develop asthma. Kids who face four traumatic events are 73% more likely to develop asthma. This has hit children especially hard in cities like Detroit where violence is high and 25% of children under 6 live in homes with no working adult.
“You can’t ignore it anymore,” said Dr. Rosalind Wright of Kravis Children’s Hospital. “The data is there that says psychological stress is a factor, just like these other factors.”
Researchers are now looking into counseling as a way to help children better cope with their stress and thereby better manage their asthma.
Physician and cartoonist, Dr. Alex Thomas noticed that the majority of children being admitted into his hospital’s ICU for asthma attacks didn’t properly understand the difference between their asthma medications. So he created a comic book called “Iggy and the Inhalers” to help.
"If you ask a 9 year old to explain dinosaurs or Pokemon, they could tell you everything," said Dr. Thomas. "But have them describe a bronchodilator, and it's confusing. It's not that they don't have the capacity. So that's how we styled this [comic]… using characters to describe what inhalers they should be using."
“Iggy and the Inhalers” features a cast of colorful characters including Broncho the Bronchodilator, Coltron the Controller, and of course Iggy the Inhaler. The response from children and parents has been so strong that the brand has expanded to include videos, trading cards, posters, stickers, and an educational program.
Iggy the Inhaler was actually created by Dr. Thomas decades ago, when he was a comic-loving asthmatic 11 year old. He started turning his medications into cartoon characters. His mom, a pediatric allergist, would let him draw “Iggy the Inhaler” comics for her quarterly newsletter. Now, years later, Iggy and his friends are helping kids across the nation.
Dr. Thomas and his company Booster Shot Comics have also created a comic book about pain identification and management. Next, they plan to tackle the serious topic of pediatric HIV/AIDS.
If you have severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) and low levels of oxygen in your blood, a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Benefits: Oxygen therapy is known to give patients more energy, and reduce the risks of heart failure and lung disease. Those who take extra oxygen during exercise, perform better and have less shortness of breath. Supplemental oxygen has also been shown to enhance user’s mental alertness and overall mood.
The two most common ways to take extra oxygen are through oxygen tanks and portable oxygen concentrators. Both are effective at giving users the increased oxygen they need, but portable oxygen concentrators are much more convenient.
How POCs Work: Unlike traditional oxygen tanks which need constant refilling, portable oxygen concentrators take air from the surrounding room and turn it into concentrated oxygen. This way they never need refilled. POCs run off of batteries. When traveling with a POC, it’s smart to take a spare battery with you as well as an AC/DC adapter.
POCs vs. Oxygen Tanks: In addition to not needing refilled, portable oxygen concentrators offer three other major benefits over traditional tanks.
1. They’re easier to carry. Oxygen tanks can be big and heavy, but POCs are meant to be portable and only weigh a few pounds.
2. They’re safer. Oxygen tanks can leak oxygen and are therefore fire hazards, whereas POCs make their own oxygen.
3. They’re ultimately cheaper. Though a portable oxygen concentrator may cost more upfront, you won’t constantly have to pay for oxygen refills, saving time and money long term.
Two weeks ago, Diwali was celebrated in India. Diwali, the festival of lights, is a Hindu holiday about the victory of light over darkness. It is celebrated with lamps and candles, feasts, gift giving, and firecrackers.
Unfortunately, this year’s firecrackers have led to a 20% increase in cases of pollution related bronchitis in the city of Jaipur. An increase in bronchitis cases after Diwali isn’t uncommon, but this year’s increase is much more severe than usual. Why? According to doctors, it has to do with a new type of firecracker growing in popularity.
“People have started avoiding high noise creating firecrackers and are instead choosing less noise generating [ones]... which produce more smoke," said Dr. Narendra Khippal, a professor at the Institute of Respiratory Diseases. “Composition of chemicals in fireworks is getting dangerous and causing health-related problems, particularly in breathing and lung-related diseases. The composition even involves lead and mercury that are causing harm in conjunctiva, mucous membrane and nasal membrane.”
The shift in firecracker preference was confirmed by Zaheer Ahemdad, a local firecracker salesman. “The sale of firecrackers with high sound was less as compared to previous years and people bought those which can be lit and held in hand.”
Fortunately, Sanjeev Sankhla, a local activist, is trying to spread the word and warn people about the dangers of high smoke firecrackers. He conducted a special drive in residential areas, explaining how firecrackers hurt air quality and can negatively affect people’s health, especially children.
1 in 12 people now has asthma, according to the CDC. Of those who have asthma, over half have had an asthma attack.
If you’re one of the many people living with asthma, then you probably already know the importance of taking your asthma medication, carrying a rescue inhaler, having an Asthma Action Plan, and avoiding your asthma triggers. You probably also know that dust, pollens, pet dander, smoke, and molds are among the most common asthma triggers.
What you may not know are these five hidden, but still dangerous asthma triggers:
Sunscreens containing benzophenone, octocrylene, or PABA can set off allergic reactions in some people, triggering an asthma attack.
2. Plastic Water Bottles
Bisphenol A (or BPA as it’s commonly known) is an industrial chemical used in the making of certain plastic items, including some water bottles. Exposure to BPA can increase a child’s likelihood of developing asthma, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
3. Antibacterial Soap
Antibacterial soaps contain a synthetic pesticide known as triclosan, which can trigger asthma in some people. Fortunately, ordinary soaps work just as well.
Many spices can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma attacks in some people. Ones to watch out for include coriander, cumin, dill, paprika, pepper, poppy seeds, and saffron.
Oil-based paints can release gas and chemicals even when they’re dry. Fortunately, latex based paints and paints with a Green Seal certification are safer.
Exposure to dogs and farm animals makes infants less likely to develop asthma later in life, says a new study from Sweden’s Uppsala University.
The researchers looked at data from more than one million Swedish children born between 2001 and 2010. They found that infants exposed to dogs were 13% less likely to develop asthma, and those exposed to farm animals were a full 52% less likely. This is similar to the results from another recent study which found exposure to farm dust decreased a child’s asthma risk.
The results of the new study could be seen as support for the Hygiene Hypothesis, which suggests that asthma is on the rise because kids today live in too sterile of environments. They’re exposed to so few irritants and allergens that their immune systems can’t tell which are actually harmful and end up overreacting to harmless irritants. And since dogs and farm animals expose kids to more dirt and irritants, those kids become less likely to develop asthma.
Or, the results could also be seen as contradicting the Hygiene Hypothesis. Dr. Frank Virant, an allergy researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital, suggested that kids who live on farms or have dogs get outside more and thus have decreased exposure to indoor allergens.
A third possibility is that the results have nothing to do with increased or decreased exposure to allergens, but instead have to do with other lifestyle factors associated with dog and farm animal ownership, such as increased exercise.
Whatever the case, more study will be needed to determine why dog and farm animal exposure correlates with lower asthma rates.
Over 25 million Americans live with asthma. Many forget to or choose not to adhere to their asthma prescriptions, leading to unnecessary hospital visits and $700 to $4,000 per patient per year in preventable medical costs, according to the CDC.
But a new device by MIT spin-off company Gecko Health is hoping to change all that. Meet the smart inhaler, CareTRx. It’s a small cap “equipped with sensors and onboard memory” that users attach to their inhaler. Every time the inhaler is used, CareTRx records the information and sends it to the CareTRx app.
The app informs users when they’ve missed a dose, and reminds them when it’s time to take a dose (in fact, the CareTRx cap even lights up). The app also awards users badges when they adhere to their prescription. And it tracks useful information such as percentage of adherence, potential triggers, peak flow, and symptoms.
“The idea is to make things very transparent and easy to understand,” said physician and Gecko Health CEO Yechiel Engelhard. “Anything to make you a smarter patient.”
Users have control of the information gathered, but are given the option of sharing it with their health care provider and/or anonymously sharing it with researchers.
CareTRx was first developed at a hackathon where it was called Chameleon and came with an app game that gave children points for properly using their inhaler. Over the years Engelhard and his team refined it, adding many new innovations like long battery life so the device doesn’t require constant charging.
The bacteria in an infant’s gut could determine whether or not they develop asthma, says a new study.
As part of a project called the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, scientists tested 319 babies to see if they showed symptoms of being at risk for asthma, specifically wheezing and having allergies. 22 babies showed both symptoms and were considered “most at risk.”
The scientists also took stool samples from all 319 babies. What they found was that the 22 most at risk infants had significantly lower levels of four particular gut bacterias than the rest of the infants. A year later, more stool samples were taken and the difference in gut bacteria levels was much less significant. "What I think is important and not so surprising to pediatricians was how important the very early life is," said study co-author Stuart Turvey. "Our study emphasizes that in that first 100 days the structure of the gut microbiome seems to be very important in influencing the immune responses that cause or protect us from asthma."
The scientists hypothesized that exposing infants to the four bacteria could prevent them from developing asthma. They tested this on newborn mice and found that the ones exposed to the four bacteria developed less severe asthma. Adult asthmatic mice, when given the four bacteria, also experienced decreased inflammation.
The possibility of treating humans with these bacteria is still a long ways off. For one thing, scientists don’t know if it’s safe or if it would even be effective long term. Nonetheless, they have secured a patent for the combination of bacteria.
The good news: A new drug called Kalydeco has been approved by the FDA to treat cystic fibrosis (CF). It targets the root cause of the disorder, and although it’s not a cure it’s supposed to greatly improve the quality of life for CF patients and help them live longer. (The current life expectancy for most CF patients is in their 40s).
The bad news: The drug company who owns Kalydeco is charging patients more than $300,000 annually for this potentially life saving treatment.
"To see a price like this was a kick in the gut,” said Dr. Brian O’Sullivan, a CF specialist. “It was really hard to take. I knew it would be an expensive drug. I thought it was going to be $10,000 a year, not $300,000 a year."
Drug companies claim they aren’t trying to gouge patients, they’re just trying to stay in business. And it’s true that the company making Kalydeco, Vertex, technically isn’t profitable. However, their CEO got a compensation package worth more than $28,000,000 last year. Plus, CF patients are particularly mad because they helped fund Kalydeco’s development in the first place. Patient groups raised millions of dollars in support. And now many people, like Dr. O’Sullivan, feel that Vertex is profiteering off them.
"There's really no transparency in how those prices are set,” said Matthew Eyles of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “They are able to charge whatever they can and whatever the market will bear, without any questions to the underlying value of a drug or its underlying cost of production."
A group of doctors from Quebec have taken up what may initially seem like a strange cause: banning perfume and cologne from hospitals. Why? Because artificial scents have the power to harm patients, particularly those with asthma.
Drs. Ken Flegel and James Martin published their argument in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. They pointed to research saying that
A. 27% of asthmatics say artificial scents worsen their condition, and
B. 30% of the population is sensitive to artificial scents in some form.
According to the doctors, “While artificial scents are designed to make us more attractive, they may result in unintended harm to those who are vulnerable… There is emerging evidence that asthma in some cases is primarily aggravated by artificial scents. This is particularly concerning in hospitals, where vulnerable patients with asthma or other upper airway or skin sensitivities are concentrated.”
Such a policy would not be without precedent. Several workplaces already encourage scent free environments, and some employees have even successfully sued their employers to get a scent free company policy.
In the opinion of Drs. Flegel and Martin this should be the rule, and not the exception, in all hospitals. “Hospital environments free from artificial scents should become a uniform policy, promoting the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike. As education and promotion programs have some effect on this practice, these programs too ought to be part of our accreditation standards.”
Asthma rates have steadily increased across the globe for the past several decades. According to the CDC asthma now affects 9.3% of kids in the USA. Now, a new study from Sweden claims part of the problem could be smoking grandmothers. According to the study, if your grandmother smoked during her pregnancy, you’re 10 to 22% more likely to develop asthma, even if your mother didn’t smoke during hers.
The study looked at data from the Swedish Registry on 44,853 different grandmothers and their 66,271 grandchildren. “We found that smoking in previous generations can influence the risk of asthma in subsequent generations,” said Dr. Caroline Lodge, one the of the study’s authors. “This may also be important in the transmission of other exposures and diseases.”
How might this work? Exposure to tobacco can affect the not-yet-born mother’s genes through a process called epigenetic modification. These genes are then passed onto the grandchild, making him or her more at risk for developing asthma. Some scientists have theorized that multigenerational transmission may explain “why 98% of inherited human diseases are unaccounted for by the prevailing view of genetic trait transmission, known as Mendelian genetics.”
But, it’s also possible that growing up with a smoking grandmother is what causes the increased asthma rate. After all, secondhand smoke is a risk factor for developing asthma.
Next, the scientists plan to research whether a grandma smoking during pregnancy can affect their grandchildren’s asthma rate if the grandma was pregnant with the grandchild’s father and not their mother at the time.
According to a new study by John Dickinson, head of the respiratory clinic at Kent University’s School of Sport and Exercise Science, athletes have higher asthma rates than average citizens. For example, 70% of the swimmers on the British Swimming Squad have asthma. So do about 50% of cross country skiers, and about 33% of cyclists. The national average asthma rate is significantly lower, a mere 8 to 10%.
This may sound like great news for athletic asthmatic kids, but the study’s results are misleading. Some of the athletes tested do have traditional asthma, but most have “exercise induced asthma” (EIA). EIA occurs when athletes over exert themselves and breathe quickly and heavily. This causes their airways to contract, leading to asthma like symptoms.
“It depends which respiratory consultant you talk to on whether you put these athletes on a spectrum of asthma, or whether you think that’s purely down to them exercising really hard in a certain environment, and if you take them out of that environment they’re fine,” said Dickinson. “It’s a grey zone. But my argument is it’s a form of asthma.”
Chlorine can exacerbate EIA, explaining why the rate is so high amongst swimmers. Cold air can also exacerbate EIA, explaining the high rate amongst skiers and cyclists.
But even though most athletes don’t have traditional asthma, the good news for asthmatic kids is that doctors now recommend getting plenty of exercise even if you have asthma. The important thing is to regulate your asthma, and keep an inhaler ready.
At the Seattle Aquarium this week, a sea otter named Mishka became the first sea otter to be diagnosed with asthma. Mishka’s trainer noticed she started having trouble breathing when smoke drifted in from nearby wildfires. Dr. Lesanna Lahner xrayed Mishka’s lungs and saw a bunch of abnormal gunk showing up. She then diagnosed Mishka with asthma.
To take her asthma medication, Mishka uses an inhaler connected to a spacer. Her trainer Sara Perry has taught Mishka to put her nose to the spacer and breath in, in exchange for food. “We want to make this as fun as possible,” said Dr. Lahner. “Any kind of medical behavior you’re training, you want to make sure it’s nice and positive.”
Even though Mishka may be the first sea otter diagnosed with asthma, she’s far from the first animal to get this diagnosis. It’s not uncommon for cats, dogs, and even horses to develop asthma. In our Tips & Advice Center, we even have a section dedicated to how to give your pets nebulizer treatments.
"More and more there starts to be this concept… we're calling One Health,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. One Health means “that there’s a connection between health of people and the health [of] other species. Sometimes those species can tell us there is a problem in the environment that could be important for human health as well.”
Asthma rates have been growing around the world for years now. One theory as to why is the “hygiene hypothesis.” It states that asthma is on the rise because kids today live in too sterile of environments. They’re exposed to so few irritants and allergens that their immune systems can’t tell which are actually harmful and end up overreacting to harmless irritants.
Like any good hypothesis, the hygiene hypothesis can be tested and that’s exactly what a group of Belgian scientists from Ghent University did. Observing that children who grow up on farms are statistically much less likely to develop asthma, the scientists decided to expose mice to a mixture of farm dust from Germany and Switzerland.
“These tests revealed that the mice were fully protected against house dust mite allergy,” said Bart Lambrecht, one of the study’s authors. Dust mites are the most common cause of allergies and one of the most common asthma triggers.
Exposure to the farm dust caused the mice to develop a protein called A20 that guards against allergic/asthmatic reaction. The scientists then looked at 2,000 people who had grown up on farms. Most did not have asthma or allergies, and the very few who did had a malfunctioned form of A20.
The scientists don’t yet know what exactly in the farm dust caused the mice to form A20, but they’re trying to figure out. And once they have, their hope is to use this knowledge to finally create a vaccine for asthma.
A number of stories have been circulating around the internet about people consuming alcohol in an all new way: inhalation. Apparently, people use nebulizer machines, hookah pipes, vaporizers and more to turn their booze into smoke and breath it in. The stated benefits are that it’s lower calorie, since the alcohol isn’t going through your stomach, and that it reaches and affects your brain much quicker.
This may be so, but there are a number of reasons why breathing alcohol is much more dangerous than doing things the old fashioned way and simply drinking it.
1. Your Liver’s Cut Out of the Process
Alcohol is a toxin. Fortunately, your liver can break it down into less harmful compounds. But inhaling nebulized alcohol bypasses your liver altogether, making alcohol consumption more harmful.
2. Alcohol Poisoning Is More Likely
It’s harder to measure the amount of alcohol breathed in, and therefore easier to overdo it. But there’s a second, scarier reason alcohol poisoning is more likely when breathed in-- your body has no means of getting rid of it. If you drink too much alcohol your body can make you throw up and get the toxin out of your stomach. Sure, this isn’t fun, but it could potentially save your life. When inhaling alcohol your body doesn’t have this safety mechanism.
3. Nasal and Lung Infections
The harmful chemicals in alcohol could harm your lungs and airways, another downside especially for those of us with respiratory conditions.
4. It’s Less Fun
Greatist News recently interviewed people online who had tried inhaling alcohol. Unanimously, they didn’t enjoy it as much as regular drinking. One person described it as “unpleasant, not unlike inhaling exhaust from a truck.” Another said the feeling “was more like dizziness or lightheadedness than actual intoxication.”
The traditional way to classify diseases was by their symptoms. But more and more, doctors and scientists are looking at the biological mechanisms that cause the symptoms, and not just the symptoms themselves. This has lead some scientists to believe there are different subtypes of asthma which, though they may have similar symptoms, are caused by different mechanisms and would benefit from different treatments.
This could explain why even though most asthma patients respond well to inhaled steroid treatments taken by nebulizer or inhaler, 10% do not. It could also explain why for years in clinical drug trials a certain percentage of patients might respond well to a drug while others show no change.
In a recent publication, David F. Choy and his colleagues outlined three subtypes of asthma--
1. Patients whose T helper 2 (Th2) cells have an inflammatory response.
2. Patients whose T helper 17 (Th17) cells have an inflammatory response.
3. Patients who don’t have a Th2 or Th17 inflammatory response.
There was a fear that Th2 and Th17 inflammatory responses worked like “whack-a-mole” as one of the publication’s coauthors, Dr. Joseph R. Arron, put it. “If you knock down the Th2 response, the Th17 pops up, and if you knock down Th17 with something else, then the Th2 will pop back up.” A later experiment on mice confirmed this to be the case. It also showed that the most effective way to suppress inflammation was to inhibit both Th2 and Th17 responses at the same time.
All this new data will hopefully benefit asthmatics in the future. But first scientists need to develop new treatments and efficient ways to diagnose what subtype of asthma a patient has.
Approximately 70,000 people live with Cystic Fibrosis, a hereditary respiratory disorder caused by faulty genes. That number is growing; an estimated 1,000 new cases of CF are documented each year.
Fortunately, scientists around the world are working on a new treatment called gene therapy. In this therapy, “copies of a normal gene are inserted into the DNA of cells to counter the effects of the faulty gene.”
16 year old Mary Bondonno participated in one of the recent clinical trials. Due to cystic fibrosis, Mary has to undergo an extensive hour long treatment every morning just to manage her symptoms. The treatment includes breathing exercises, nebulizers, inhalers, and physiotherapy. But once Mary started receiving gene therapy, she found it made a huge difference, “I had a lot more energy, I didn’t need my wheelchair, my grades were going up, and I was getting a lot more done,” she said.
Unfortunately, once the trail stopped, so did her gene therapy. “It was the best year of my life. So I want that back.”
Currently, scientists are looking for ways to amplify and enhance gene therapy, as well as trying to make the treatment more available. One new strategy for enhancement is called cationic liposome. In this strategy, DNA is delivered to the faulty gene via a fatty container which delivers DNA directly to a cell. Initial results “show promise.”
Hopefully, we will soon live in a world where cystic fibrosis is more manageable thanks to gene therapy.
We still don’t know exactly what causes asthma. “We know that asthma is related to genes, environment, and the interaction between the two,” said Jin-Ah Park. “But asthma remains poorly understood.”
Park is one of the lead authors on a new study that could impact how various diseases such as asthma and cancer are understood and treated. Though we don’t know the exact causes of asthma, many scientists believed that epithelial cells, which line organs and body cavities including one’s airways, are involved. So Park and his team studied them and made an amazing discovery.
In normal airways the epithelial cells remain relatively motionless, as though they’re jammed. But on an asthmatic’s airways the cells swirl about, totally “unjammed.” Now the scientists have to figure out-- does asthma cause the unjamming, or does the unjamming of these cells cause asthma? If it’s the latter, this could greatly change how asthma is understood and treated.
But the impact of this study could go far beyond asthma treatments. Epithelial cells are part of every process that involve cell movement and growth, including cancer. As we learn more about epithelial cells and how they work, hopefully we’ll develop better ways to treat the related diseases. As Harvard bioengineering professor Jeffrey Fredberg puts it, “Trying to define how cells behave, how they exert forces on each other, and how that changes what they do are big open questions. Researchers all over the world are looking more and more at these questions. It’s very exciting.”
When diagnosing pulmonary diseases such as asthma and tuberculosis, doctors frequently use sputum analysis. This analysis is both very important (different types of asthma require different medications) and difficult. The current process requires large samples, shipping those samples to trained operators in specialized labs, and handling of the potentially contagious specimens.
Which is why Penn State engineers along with National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute scientists have developed a much simpler lab-on-a-chip device. The new device offers much quicker analyses that can be performed right then and there in a doctor’s office, or even by patients at home. With the press of a few buttons, the device will mix the sputum using ultrasonics, analyze it, and present a read-out of the results. Plus, the disposable part of the device which handles the contagious specimen will cost less than $1 to produce.
“This on-chip sputum liquefier is a significant advance regarding our goal of developing a… diagnostic device that will determine the type of inflammation present in the lungs of asthmatics,” said Stewart Levine, a senior investigator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “This will allow healthcare providers to individualize asthma treatments for each patient and advance the goal of bringing precision medicine into clinical practice.”
The device should be a big help to the approximately 25,000,000 people who live with asthma, as well as all those living in areas where tuberculosis is still a major issue.
After years of asthma rates rising all around the world, we finally have some good news: in the UK, asthma rates have gone down 10% over the last ten years.
The results come from one of the oldest and longest running asthma surveys in the world-- the Aberdeen School Asthma Study. Since 1964, every 5 years Aberdeen schools have sent their students home with a survey asking parents if their child suffers from asthma, wheezing, hay fever or eczema. Some of the kids taking home the study today are the third generation in their family to do so.
At first, asthma rates were skyrocketing. In 1964, they were at less than 5%. By 1989, they reached 10%. And by 2004, they were over 25%. Fortunately, they have dropped back significantly and are now just over 15%.
Dr. Steve Turner, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, spoke at length about possible reasons why asthma rates have dropped so significantly. “Some of the apparent drop is down to more careful diagnoses being made nowadays. In years gone by, asthma was perhaps being diagnosed more freely than it ought to have been. There have also been clear changes in our environment from diet, to the air we breathe. Some might even… say the smoking ban could be part of it, but we don’t know for certain.”
Oddly, despite the significant drop in asthma two other allergic conditions-- eczema and hay fever-- have not dropped, leading Dr. Turner to speculate that perhaps allergies don’t affect asthma as much as we think.
Whatever the case, it’s encouraging that asthma rates are declining. Hopefully, we will see a similar trend around the world.
A year ago we wrote about bronchial thermoplasty, a new asthma treatment that works by searing off part of the airway muscles which enlarge and restrict breathing during an asthma attack. A device was developed to do this, Alair, and then purchased by Boston Scientific for $193,500,000. Executives estimated it would become a billion dollar industry by 2020.
But few people are getting the procedure.
Why? It mostly has to do with health insurance. The procedure costs $20,000 and many of the largest insurers, including Cigna Corp. and Anthem Inc., won’t pay for it. According to Anthem spokesperson Jill Becher, “Bronchial thermoplasty is considered investigational and not medically necessary for the treatment of asthma. This procedure has real and significant complications and the ongoing concern is the relative safety as compared to the benefit.”
It’s hard to say whether insurance companies are genuinely concerned about the safety of the procedure, which has a lot of medical backing, or if they simply want to avoid paying the bill. Either way, the procedure can have negative side effects including congestion, bronchospasm, and worsening airway hyperreactivity. But it also has some amazing benefits, including reducing asthma attacks by 44% and reducing emergency room visits by 78% (at least according to a company-funded study).
Christi Thompson, a home ec teacher from Ohio, had the procedure two years ago. Initially, she reacted poorly and had to spend two days recovering in the hospital (most patients go home the same day). Even so, the procedure was worth it for her. She now has severe asthma symptoms far less frequently. “I don’t have to use my nebulizer as many times a day as I did prior to the surgery, and I don’t feel I’ve had to take as many bouts of steroids,” Thompson said.
Researchers are currently testing an inhalable ebola vaccine on animals, hoping to move on to human trials in the near future. So far, things look promising. The potential vaccine being tested is a mixture of a weakened respiratory virus-- parainfluenza virus type 3-- and an Ebola virus glycoprotein. The combo is called HPIV3/EboGP.
Researchers give this concoction to rhesus monkeys via nebulizer mask, then administer a potentially fatal dose of ebola. But thanks to the immunity built up by HPIV3/EboGP, the animals survive. Plus, scientists claim the vaccine has no negative side effects.
If the vaccine is successful in humans, it has the potential to save thousands of lives. During outbreaks, there often aren’t enough trained medical workers to administer all the vaccines needed, especially in rural areas where ebola has been known to break out. The inhalable version of the vaccine would be much easier to administer, but at this point any ebola vaccine would be a huge deal. Though many are being tested, none are yet on the market.
One potential issue with the new vaccine is that humans might not respond to it as well as monkeys have. For humans, PIV3 infections are common during childhood. Therefore, a human immune system’s response may not be as strong as a monkey’s is. Some humans also have PIV3 immunity which could negate the effects of HPIV3/EboGP.
But the only way to know for sure is to try. The researchers involved hope to move on to phase 1 clinical trials very soon.
In the news this week, a woman is claiming to have cured her asthma through laughing exercises. She started taking laughter classes to treat her depression, but found they also greatly improved her respiratory health. She is now training to lead her own classes and thinks laughter therapy would be a good option for other asthmatics.
Research would be needed to conclusively prove or disprove her claims, but laughter as an asthma cure seems unlikely. However, this isn’t the strangest “cure” for asthma ever suggested. Here are 4 other questionable remedies from history--
1. Ozone Paper
Ozone Papers were a special type of paper that medicine men claimed would cure your asthma and/or bronchitis. Patients were instructed to simply roll up the papers like a cigarette and smoke them. We now know that smoking exacerbates asthma, so this cure had the exact opposite effect.
2. Growing Taller
In old time America, it was suggested that children with asthma be place against a tree and a nail driven in an inch above their head. If in a year’s time, the child was taller than the nail, his or her asthma would be gone.
3. Horse Blood
Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wins the award for grossest asthma “cure.” He suggested drinking the blood of wild horses and eating snails. Please don’t try this at home.
4. Purging and Bleeding
In Ancient Greece, purging (vomiting) or bleeding were recommended as means to get whatever matter was causing the asthma out of your body. As you can imagine, these techniques did more harm than good.
In New Zealand, 1 out of every 7 children takes asthma medication. It’s estimated that 550,000 school days are lost to asthma every year, and students with asthma often have lower reading achievement.
That’s why New Zealand’s Asthma Foundation wanted a fun, engaging way to raise asthma awareness amongst all students. So they invented Dance 4 Asthma-- a fun video competition in which schools all across the country create a dance music video for a certain song. This year’s song was One of a Kind by Cameron Rota, a singer who became famous on the reality TV show X-Factor New Zealand.
57 schools entered this year’s competition. The winner was Woodstock School with a video featuring primary students doing an energetic choreographed dance routine. You can check out the video here. In addition to bragging rights, the school also won an iPad.
But theirs wasn’t the only great video. According to Michael Gudgeon, member of the local dance company Java Dance and a judge in this year’s Dance 4 Asthma competition, “It was great to see such fun, creative, complex and informative videos. I can tell many hours have gone into making these videos and it really shows. It was fabulous to see so many students getting up, dancing and giving it a go. That’s what it’s all about. Being active, having fun, getting to be creative and dancing for asthma.”
Eating a high fiber diet during pregnancy may make your child less likely to develop asthma, says a new study by microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Alison Thorburn. According to the study, when fiber is broken down acetate, an anti-inflammatory chemical, is produced and passed to the fetus, making the fetus less likely to develop asthma.
Dr. Thorburn noticed that asthma is less common in cultures with high fiber diets. To test if there was a link, she and her team fed pregnant mice high, normal, and low fiber diets. Once the pregnant mice gave birth, the scientists exposed the babies to an allergen known to cause asthma-like reactions.
The mice babies whose moms had a low fiber diet developed asthma like symptoms. Those whose moms had a high fiber diet did not.
Dr. Thorburn and her team also studied 40 human mothers. They confirmed that 1.) Moms who ate a high fiber diet had more acetate in their blood, and 2.) Moms with more acetate in their blood were less likely to have children with asthma.
High fiber foods include fruits such as raspberries, pears, and apples; vegetables such as artichokes, peas, and broccoli; starches such as whole wheat pasta, bran flakes, and oatmeal; and legumes such as lentils, black beans, and lima beans. In addition to possibly shielding offspring from asthma, high fiber diets are known to help your digestive system function well and help prevent obesity and heart disease.
C-sections may increase an infant’s risk of developing asthma, diabetes, and obesity, according to a new report by the Institute of Reproductive and Child Health in Beijing.
When analyzing past research, report authors Dr. Jan Blustein and Jianmeng Liu found 23 studies linking Cesarean births to asthma, 20 linking them to type 1 diabetes, and 9 linking them to obesity.
However, if a link exists, the difference doesn’t seem to be huge. 9.5% of children born via C-section develop asthma, but so do 7.9% of children born vaginally. Still, it’s a difference worth noting.
But what causes the difference is up for debate. One theory is that healthy bacteria are passed to the infant during vaginal birth. Another is that hormones released during natural birth help minimize an infant’s risk. Another is that the health problems that make a C-section necessary in the first place are passed onto the child, and the process of birth doesn’t actually affect anything. But right now there simply isn’t enough data to know which theory, if any, is correct.
Of course, C-sections can be life-saving for both mothers and children, and neither Blustein nor Liu view them as a bad thing. They simply feel the increased risk factor should be taken into consideration in cases where C-sections are elective. According to Dr. Blustein, “It’s a discussion that’s important to have in view of the rising rate of C-sections. The magnitude of risk elevation is small, but even when we are talking about increasing the risk modestly, we still need to talk about it.”
June is the peak month for grass pollens and if you have allergies, you’ve probably noticed. But fear not, for there is a new and innovative allergy treatment: toothpaste.
Specifically, a toothpaste called Allerdent. Unlike most allergy medications, it doesn’t just help with the symptoms. Its goal is to make you immune to your allergen.
It works like this-- you contact your doctor or pharmacy and let them know what you want to become unallergic to. They mix up a batch of Allerdent that contains that very allergen. Then, every time you brush your teeth, your immune system is exposed to small doses of the allergen. This helps you build up resistance and, if all goes well, puts an end to your allergic reaction. Basically, it works the same as allergy shots but has two major upsides--
1. No needles.
2. For allergy shots to work, they require three to five years of treatment. Most people drop out before actually completing this. But brushing your teeth is something you already do every day (hopefully). So you don’t have to change your routine.
The allergens are absorbed by the mucus membranes beneath your tongue. For the treatment to work properly, you’re supposed to hold the toothpaste in your mouth for two minutes-- the same length of time dentists recommend you brush your teeth.
If you have asthma or allergies, then you’re probably well aware of all the grasses and weeds that flourish and mess with your respiratory system during the summer months. But there are other less well known triggers that may be causing you to sneeze and wheeze. Read on to learn what they are and what you can do about them.
The Trigger: Fruits and Vegetables
What You Can Do: Fruits and veggies are almost always good for you. But if you feel your lips begin to tingle after biting into what would be an otherwise healthy treat, you may have oral allergy symptom. This means the fruit/vegetable you’re eating has similar proteins to the grasses/weeds you’re allergic too. The solutions are to simply stop eating that particular fruit/veggie, or if your reaction is mild enough, to go on eating it anyhow.
The Trigger: Chlorine
What You Can Do: What You Can Do: For some people, the smell of chlorine can cause asthma and allergy symptoms. You can avoid swimming or simply deal with the symptoms. Or, if you have your own pool, you can try switching to a saltwater chlorinator to keep it sanitized. These aren’t chlorine-free, but the chlorine isn’t as strong and you shouldn’t get that chlorine smell.
The Trigger: Bugs
What You Can Do: Some people have severe allergic reactions to various bugs and insects. So make sure to wear bug spray and avoid wearing perfume or brightly colored clothes because, in all seriousness, a bug could mistake you for a delicious nectar-filled flower. Also, check with an allergist who may suggest carrying epinephrine in case of emergency.
The Trigger: Campfire Smoke
What You Can Do: Making smores is much more enjoyable when you’re not having an asthma attack. But unfortunately, smoke is a common asthma trigger. You can minimize the risk by sitting upwind of the smoke and not getting too close to the campfire. Or, you can ditch the campfire altogether and make smores in the microwave.
Although previous studies had pointed towards a link between increased soy intake and decreased asthma symptoms, a new clinical trial has shown that taking soy supplements does not improve one’s asthma symptoms.
The previous studies had been population based, whereas the clinical trial was “multicenter, randomized, double-blind, [and] placebo-controlled.” Lewis J. Smith, MD of the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago called the test results “disappointing” but said they show the limitations of cross-sectional studies.
Bradley Chipps, MD from the Respiratory Disease Center in Sacramento said, “Would I have loved this to have been positive? You bet I would, because we would have been able to say, ‘Here is an absolutely safe dietary supplement you can use to control your asthma at a much cheaper price than expensive asthma medication.’ It didn’t work, but it’s important that this hypothesis was tested.”
To test the hypothesis, 193 patients were given soy supplements and 193 were given a placebo for a period of 24 weeks. Unfortunately, the results showed no difference in asthma symptoms between the two groups. The only change was that the placebo group showed an improvement in “forced vital capacity” (how much air one can breath out after inhaling as much as they can). But the researchers concluded this was “not clinically meaningful.”
Scientists haven’t completely given up hope that soy supplements could help asthmatics. Some have wondered if perhaps certain ethnic groups would be more likely to respond positively to the soy supplements, and others feel it might be worth testing if the supplements are more helpful to children.
According to a new study, up to 10% of those with asthma may have a peanut allergy but not know it because their asthma symptoms (coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath) are so similar to their peanut allergy symptoms.
The study looked at over 1,500 children at a respiratory clinic in Toledo, Ohio and discovered that 10% tested positive for peanut sensitivity. Of that 10%, more than half of the families had no idea that their child had any sort of peanut allergy.
“This study demonstrates children with asthma might benefit from a test for peanut sensitivity, especially when control of wheezing and coughing is difficult to achieve,” said Robert Cohn, the study’s lead author.
But others aren’t so sure. Dr. Samantha Walker, the deputy chief executive and director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said, “These findings are difficult to interpret because allergy tests to food are notoriously unreliable and require careful interpretation to confirm a diagnosis of peanut allergy… Many people have positive allergy tests but can eat peanuts safely. And so, it is unsurprising that many people tested for this research did not know they would have a positive test result.”
Even Cohn admits that more research still needs to be done into the link between asthma and undiagnosed peanut allergies.
Outbreaks of the flu don’t just affect humans. They can affect dogs too.
Currently, an outbreak of the flu is infecting dogs throughout the Chicago area. Rescuers are trying to fight it with everything from nebulizer treatments to Pedialyte, chicken soup, and liver sausage.
Fortunately, the flu is highly treatable. Unfortunately, it’s highly contagious, and it’s hitting dogs hard. Due to the outbreak, dog rescues have been forced to cancel adoption events and fundraisers. When dogs aren’t adopted, animal shelters run out of space. And when shelters run out of space, the animals are euthanized.
At first, the flu was just affecting the general dog population. And a few weeks ago, it even seemed like the situation was improving. The number of dogs taken to the vet for the flu had stabilized and even started decreasing. But then, the flu hit the animal shelters themselves. First appearing at small shelters, it quickly spread to the larger facilities. At this point, vets have reported more than 1,100 cases of dog flu in the region.
Pet owners in Chicago are being advised to keep their dogs away from other dogs to stop the spread of the virus. Luckily, the dog flu does not appear to be transferable to humans. Shelters are also looking for people who don’t currently have dogs who would be willing to host a dog for the short term, until things calm down. If you’re interested in doing so, you can contact your local animal shelter.
In potentially exciting news for asthmatics, researchers from Cardiff University and King’s College are making the bold claim that in as little as five years they may be able to prevent asthmatics from ever having another asthma attack, potentially putting an end to the need for inhalers and nebulizers. How?
They say they’ve finally found the root cause of asthma.
For years we’ve known what asthma is and how it’s often triggered, but not what causes it in the first place. One theory was that it has to do with our calcium receptors (CaSR). In a press release by the team of researchers, they claim they’ve proven this theory correct. Not only that, they also claim they have the solution for preventing asthma altogether-- calcilytics.
Calcilytics are actually a failed class of drugs intended to treat osteoporosis. They affect and manipulate our CaSR, but were ultimately found to be ineffective when it comes to osteoporosis. However, when it comes to asthma, they may be exactly what we need. When studying the effects of calcilytics on mice, the researchers found that the treatment reversed the effects of asthma. “If we can prove that calcilytics are safe when administered directly to the lung in people, then in five years we could be in a position to treat patients and potentially stop asthma from happening in the first place,” said Dr. Daniela Riccardi.
The researchers have designed human trials but are still waiting on funding. Once they have it, they say they’ll be able to start trials in two years.
Currently, there is no cure for cystic fibrosis. But some scientists at Yale could change that.
On April 27th, they published a paper explaining how they successfully fixed the most common mutation in the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.
A team led by Dr. Marie Egan, Dr. Peter Glazer, and Mark Saltzman created synthetic molecules similar to DNA called peptide nucleic acids (PNA). They delivered the PNA, along with some donor DNA, into human and mouse airway cells by using nanoparticles billionths of a meter wide. “What the PNA does is clamp to the DNA close to the mutation, triggering DNA repair and recombination pathways in cells,” said Dr. Egan.
This process is known as gene editing. The scientists successfully edited a high percentage of the targeted cells. Not only that, but there were very few unintended effects on the cells.
This could be big news for the more than 70,000 people with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a life threatening genetic disease that affects one’s lungs and digestive system. It can be treated through airway clearance, inhaling medicine through a nebulizer, or taking pancreatic enzyme supplements. However, these treatments are merely symptom management.
According to Dr. Egan, the successful editing of the cystic fibrosis gene is just “step one in a long process.” But it shows promise. “The technology could be used as a way to fix the basic genetic defect in cystic fibrosis.”
At the University of Arizona, professor of management information systems Sudha Ram and physician Dr. Yolande Pengetnze have teamed up to invent a model that can predict with 75% accuracy how many asthma related emergency room visits a hospital will receive on a given day.
The model uses data from both air quality sensors and Twitter. As Ram explains, Twitter can be an even more useful way to collect a person’s health data than looking at their actual health records. “You only go to the doctor once in a while, and you don’t always tell your doctor how much you’ve been exercising or what you’ve been eating. But people share that information all the time on social media,” she said.
Ram and Pengetnze collected data from millions of tweets around the world. They then used text-mining to look at the frequency of asthma related keywords such as “asthma,” “inhaler” and “wheezing.” They looked at how frequently these terms were used in the zip codes surrounding a specific Dallas hospital, and also the air quality data from that region.
Through analyzing the tweets and air quality together, Ram and Pengetnze were able to successfully predict with 75% accuracy the amount of visits the Dallas hospital could expect to receive on any given day-- low, medium or high.
By using predictive models like these, hospitals could better prepare for their daily tasks, making sure they have the appropriate numbers of workers, the right equipment, and the right medicine to the treat the number of patients they’ll be seeing that day.
Ram and her colleagues hope to use these techniques to create predictive models for other chronic conditions like diabetes.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first electronic nebulizer for delivering the cystic fibrosis medication Pulmozyme. This nebulizer, the eRapid, was developed by PARI and cuts treatment times from six to eight minutes all the way down to two or three minutes. Not only does this improve the patient’s experience, a study has shown it also increases the patient’s adherence to their treatment program. In the study, it was found that ten to one children preferred the new eRapid nebulizer, as did twenty to one adults.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that, among other things, harms the lungs and causes difficulty breathing. It affects about 30,000 people in the US alone and over 70,000 around the world. It primarily affects children because, in the past, treatments weren’t good enough to allow CF patients to reach adulthood. Now, the median life expectancy for CF patients is 37.5 years and it’s only expected to increase as treatments and delivery methods continue to improve.
The eRapid was previously only available in Europe where it was known as the eFlow Rapid. But now that it’s been FDA approved it can be sold to US patients. According to the president of PARI USA, Geoff A. Hunziker, “PARI was motivated to introduce eRapid to the US market based on encouragement from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and their input to have a general use electronic nebulizer that could improve therapy adherence.”
Katie and Dalton Prager met when they were both being treated for cystic fibrosis. Two years later they got married. Three years later they were separated by their condition, and thought they may never be able to touch each other again.
Both Katie and Dalton needed lung transplants. Dalton had private insurance which paid for him to go to Pittsburgh and get the transplant. However, Katie had Kentucky Medicaid which was refusing to pay for her to go to Pittsburgh and get that transplant. So while her husband recovered in Pittsburgh, Katie was stuck in a Kentucky hospital that didn’t do the type of transplant she needed, and told she only had a year to live.
Fortunately, CNN did a story about Katie which criticized Kentucky Medicaid’s refusal to pay. Less than a week later, Medicaid finally got the process started to send Katie to Pittsburgh. Medicaid released a statement saying “Everyone has the best interests of the patient at heart, and are working collaboratively to overcome any further administrative hurdles.”
According to Katie, “Without CNN I don’t think any of this would have been possible. I am so thankful for all the support that Dalton and I have received from people all over the world.”
Dalton was eventually released from the Pittsburgh hospital, but still can’t go into his wife’s hospital room as her infection could kill him. But with Katie now getting approved for the transplant, the couple has newfound hope. “I will hug my husband on our four year anniversary. I just know it,” Katie told CNN.
At the National Science Foundation, the Advanced Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) team led by Veena Misra is using nanotechnology to create wearable sensors that can monitor both an asthmatic’s external environment and their vital signs to warn them if an asthma attack is imminent.
“One part of the sensor, for example if it’s located on the wrist, can monitor your hydration levels, your heart rate, your EKG,” said Misra. “The same platform can also be used to monitor the environment. And there we’re looking at gases such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxides. And so our technologies will… help people make better decisions and also prevent themselves from getting exposed to toxins in the environment that can exacerbate… conditions like asthma.”
Data collected by the wearable sensor will be sent wirelessly to the user’s phone and even possibly their doctor. The phone would then alert the user if they’ve been exposed to too much pollution and need to go elsewhere, or if they need to lower their activity level to avoid an asthma flare up.
Misra’s team is also in the process of developing nanodevices that harvest energy from the user’s body, rather than relying on batteries. Not only would this mean the sensors never need recharged, it would also make them even smaller, more flexible, and more comfortable. For example, instead of being part of a somewhat bulky wristband the sensor could simply be placed inside a user’s clothing, conveniently providing them the data they need to stay healthy.
Although asthma has been heavily studied over the past several years, there are still many mysteries regarding what causes it and what all triggers an asthma attack. Things such as weather, air quality, traffic, trees, temperature, and wind direction are all potential factors.
More data is needed to understand how asthma works in the real world, so that people can be better prepared and conditions can improve. That’s why the city of Louisville, Kentucky has collaborated with private and philanthropic organizations to launch the AIR Louisville program.
The program uses unique sensors developed by Propeller Health which are attached to inhalers and track when, where, and how often the inhalers are used. Previously, Propeller Health tried this with 300 inhalers. Now, they’ll be expanding the program to 2,000 inhalers all across the city.
According to Ted Smith, the chief of civic innovation at the Louisville Metro Government, “The goal of the AIR Louisville program is to use data… to make smarter choices about how we improve the quality of life for our residents. By collecting data about where and when residents have asthma attacks we can help inform public policy that will reduce the burden of asthma citywide. The program will also help physicians, patients, and our employers understand asthma triggers and do a better job managing this health problem.”
The program will be collecting data from a diverse group that represents the different ethnicities and income levels of Louisville. The program is expected to run for two years.
Dieter Kirsch’s son Jordi has cystic fibrosis. A few years ago, that could have been a death sentence. But fortunately thanks to new medications, people with cystic fibrosis are now living longer, healthier, happier lives. All this depends on the patient successfully taking nebulizer treatments, which requires that they “sit still for a half an hour or more every day, breathing at exactly the right speed and depth.” This can be a challenge for adults, but it’s especially difficult for energetic, short-attention span toddlers.
So Kirsch, knowing how important these treatments are for his son, turned it into a game. Specifically, a videogame. He came up with and funded the making of a device that attaches to a nebulizer set and measures the pressure in the nebulizer tube. It then sends this info to a computer via USB, allowing the patient to control the results of a videogame by the speed and depth of his or her breathing.
The device is called the Jordi-Stick and there are currently two games for it. In one, kids pilot a hot air balloon and try to avoid obstacles. In the other, kids play an astronaut flying through space trying to collect items and avoid asteroids.
Kirsch is hoping to start selling the Jordi-Stick internationally. It can be used with almost any nebulizer and the games allow you to set a target breathing rate and pressure to match each patient’s prescription.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has been in the news these past couple weeks, after Leonard Nimoy, famous for playing Spock on Star Trek, died of the disease at age 83. Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD. But there are things you can do to slow its progress, feel better, and live a more active lifestyle.
1. Quit Smoking
When Nimoy announced that he had COPD last year, he said it was because of his years of smoking. If you smoke, quitting is the most important thing you can do to treat COPD. Smoking speeds the progress of COPD and causes lung function to decline.
2. Get Vaccinated
While not fun for anyone, getting the flu can be especially harmful to those with COPD, worsening symptoms considerably. So get that flu shot, and stay healthy.
3. Live Healthy
Eating a proper diet, exercising and sleeping well will make your body stronger in general and lower your risk of infections and getting ill. Breathing exercises specifically can help strengthen your respiratory muscles.
4. Take Your Medicine
Your doctor may prescribe a long acting or short acting bronchodilator. Bronchodilators help open your airways so you can breathe easier. Long acting bronchodilators, as their name suggests, help you over a long period of time, usually about 12 hours, and are taken every day. Short acting bronchodilators only last 4 to 6 hours and are taken only when needed. Bronchodilators can be taken through an inhaler or nebulizer.
It would seem doctors don’t want pregnant women to have any fun. For years they’ve warned against drinking, smoking, and even caffeine consumption during pregnancy. And now they’re saying drinking sugary drinks during pregnancy could increase a child’s likelihood of developing asthma.
This new study was presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology meeting in early March. It looked at data gathered over the course of several years from more than 2,000 mothers and children. The mothers were asked to fill out food frequency questionnaires during pregnancy and when their children were 2.
By the time the children reached about 8 years old, 19.7% of them had asthma. Researchers examined the self-reported data and saw a correlation between fructose consumption and asthma. The children whose mothers drank sugary beverages during the second trimester of pregnancy were at highest risk. And the children who drank more juice than their peers at age 2 also had an increased risk.
Those with the most fructose intake also tended to be poorer and have a higher body mass index (BMI). It’s possible that some of the other conditions that come along with being poor, or having a high BMI, are actually what caused the increased rates of asthma. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between fructose consumption and asthma.
Previous studies have also linked fructose consumption to diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and gout.
Children from families who hand wash their dishes have about half the risk of developing allergic conditions like asthma or eczema compared to children from families who use machine dishwashers, according to a new study.
The researchers believe this is because hand washing dishes exposes children to more bacteria. Previous studies have confirmed that “hand dishwashing very often is less effective than machine dishwashing in reducing bacterial content,” says allergist and lead author on this study, Dr. Bill Hesselmar. The popular hygiene hypothesis suggests when one’s body isn’t exposed to a normal variety of microbes, the immune system will start attacking harmless substances, resulting in allergies and allergic conditions.
“We therefore speculate that hand dishwashing is associated with increased microbial exposure, causing immune stimulation and, hence, less allergy,” said Hesselmar.
The study looked at more than 1,000 Swedish children between the ages of 7 and 8. The parents were asked how they cleaned dishes, as well as if their children ate fermented foods or foods directly from farms. Only 12% of families hand washed dishes. Of that 12%, only 1.7% of the kids had asthma. But of those who machine washed dishes, 7.3% had asthma.
The researchers found that not only did hand washing dishes decrease asthma risk, so did eating fermented foods at least one a month, and eating foods directly from farms.
Of course, exposing children to more bacteria also poses its own threats. According to pediatric allergist Dr. Selina Gierer, “The take-home message is that we should always consider the health benefits of reducing environmental microbial exposure to reduce infection when assessing the benefit of reducing allergy.”
The first day of spring is less than a month away. Soon the snow will start melting and plant life will rise again, bringing beauty and tons and tons of pollen.
Pollen is a very common asthma and allergy trigger. If it’s one of yours, here’s how you can be prepared.
1. Check the Pollen Forecast - When planning outdoor activities, it’s a good idea to check the pollen forecast ahead of time so you know what the air quality will be. If possible, schedule outdoor activities at times when pollen levels are lower. Often pollen levels are at their highest in the morning before 10am.
2. Get Unscented Bug Spray - In addition to plants, bugs also make a comeback during the spring. But be careful when choosing a bug spray. Scented or aerosol sprays can trigger asthma for some people. If this is a trigger for you, try unscented lotions instead.
3. Garden with Caution - Gardening is a popular spring activity. To avoid allergens, choose plants that are lightly scented and that are bird/insect pollinated instead of wind pollinated. Also, some grasses such as buffalo grass produce less pollen than others.
4. Shower Before Bed - While you’re outside, your hair and clothes will collect pollen. Avoid bringing all that pollen to bed with you by showering before you go to bed. This will help keep your sheets from collecting pollen, so you can breathe easy throughout the night and sleep well.
Scientists are studying a new, apparently effective treatment for allergic asthma. But it’s one parents might not be too crazy about giving their kids-- a psychedelic drug.
The drug is known as (R)-DOI. Previously, this class of drug was known for its psychedelic effects on the brain. But according to scientist and author of the new study Dr. Charles Nichols, “We have demonstrated for the first time… that they are also effective in treating physiological diseases outside of the brain, a completely new and exciting role for this… drug.”
Asthma causes a patient’s airways to be inflamed. This means the muscles around airways tighten and mucus production increases, making it harder to breathe. Previous medications have focused on relaxing the muscles around the airways, or reducing inflammation altogether. But this new drug could actually prevent inflammation before it happens.
Previous studies had shown that when serotonin receptors in the body were activated, this had a strong anti-inflammatory effect. (R)-DOI activates these receptors, causing an anti-inflammatory effect and preventing allergic asthma before it can start.
So far this new drug has only been tested on mice. But the scientists hope to further develop the treatment and someday make it usable for humans as well. Fortunately, even though the treatment is based on a psychedelic drug, they have had successful results through administering it at a concentration 50 to 100 times less than what would influence a person’s behavior.
“Not only is this a significant breakthrough in the field of study of serotonin and psychiatric drugs, but it is a breakthrough in the field of asthma as well,” said Dr. Nichols. “We have identified an entirely new anti-inflammatory mechanism for the treatment of asthma in the clinic that could someday be administered in an inhaler or a daily pill.”
Scientists have developed a new treatment for sleep apnea-- a pacemaker-like implant that sends electrical currents to the patient’s tongue to keep it from blocking their airway. The implant is government approved and already helping sleep apnea sufferers across the country.
Before now, the main treatment for sleep apnea has been CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines. These use pressure to keep a patient’s airways open throughout the night, so the patient can keep breathing and sleep soundly. But although CPAP machines have helped millions, some people never get used to the pressure or to wearing a CPAP mask. In fact, it’s estimated that only half of the 12 to 18 million Americans with sleep apnea regularly use a CPAP machine.
For patients who choose not to use a CPAP machine, this new implant may literally be a lifesaver. Not only does sleep apnea keep patients from getting a good night’s sleep, it also increases the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
The implant is placed in one’s chest, with a sensor between the ribs that can tell when someone is about to breathe in. The implant will then send an electrical current that makes the patient’s tongue move forward slightly, unblocking the patient’s airway so they can breathe freely.
Asthma can be hard to diagnose. There is no test which definitively proves that a patient does or does not have it. So doctors have had to rely on their own experience and the patient’s symptoms when diagnosing. But both are subject to fluctuation and human error.
This means that as many as one million adults in the UK may have been wrongly diagnosed with asthma and are now taking unnecessary medications with potentially harmful side effects, according to an NHS watchdog.
Fortunately, as asthma testing techniques improve, incorrect diagnoses should become less common. NICE (National Institute for health Care Excellence) has written up a new set of guidelines for diagnosing asthma. They feel the first test doctors should use is spirometry.
Spirometers measure how much a person can breathe out and how fast. They are inexpensive and effective for diagnosing asthma. Plus, they can also help patients exercise their lungs and increase lung volume. When a patient breathes out, a ball is suspended in midair. So, patients simply practice keeping the ball in the air for longer and longer periods.
Experts warn that no one should stop taking asthma medication without first consulting their doctor, even if they think they’ve been wrongly diagnosed. Also, according to asthma charity Asthma UK, even though some people are wrongly diagnosed, under-diagnosis and under-treatment of asthma are both still major and very common issues. “Three people die every day because of asthma. Most of these deaths could have been avoided through better control of the disease,” said Asthma UK.
Scientists have identified a gene linked to Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD), a rare respiratory condition which affects one in 20,000 people.
PCD causes the cilia lining a person’s respiratory tract to not function correctly. Cilia are hair like protrusions that help the body clear mucus from the lungs. Because their cilia don’t function correctly, PCD patients have reduced mucus clearance. This leads to symptoms similar to cystic fibrosis and a much higher susceptibility to respiratory infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
The new study was led by Dr. Hannah Mitchison from University College London. She and her team looked at the genes of a family who had two kids with PCD. They compared the genes of those kids with the genes of the healthy family members, and found that the important difference was a mutation in a gene known as CCDC151.
The mutation is a type of “nonsense mutation”, which the National Human Genome Research Institute defines as “the substitution of a single base pair that leads to the appearance of a stop codon where previously there was a codon specifying an amino acid.” If you, like me, are not a geneticist you probably found that definition confusing. But the important thing to know about nonsense mutations is that scientists are working on a new genetic therapy called “read-through therapy” to help fix them.
This therapy is being tested on cystic fibrosis patients, and scientists like Mitchison believe it could someday benefit PCD patients as well. Hopefully, this new genetic discovery and this new therapy will help create a brighter future for people living with PCD.
According to a new study, wearing compression stockings throughout the day can help improve sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which the sleeper briefly stops breathing several times throughout the night. It disrupts one’s sleep, making it less restful, and therefore increases tiredness and fatigue throughout the day. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. Those with moderate to severe sleep apnea usually treat it with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which helps keep the sleeper’s airways open throughout the night.
Now, after the results of the study, sleep apnea patients might try wearing compression stockings as well. However, the results of this particular study are suspect. First of all, it was a very small study with only 45 participants. Secondly, those who wore the stockings only had a 27% decrease in the frequency of their sleep apnea compared to those who didn’t. 27% may be an improvement, but it’s far from solving the problem.
But even if the study results don’t help patients treat sleep apnea, they could still help us better understand how sleep apnea works. There are numerous ways in which one’s airways can be blocked during sleep, causing sleep apnea. The study indicates another potential way-- fluid from the legs moving into the neck at night, and restricting oxygen flow.
By exerting pressure on the legs throughout the day, compression stockings reduce fluid movement. This is likely what’s causing the decline in sleep apnea for patients who wear compression stockings throughout their day.
Winter can be an especially bad time for asthma attacks and flare ups.
Dr. Kyle Happel is a pulmonary critical care specialist in New Orleans. According to him, during the winter months “we see a lot more asthma exacerbations, a lot more folks that require rescue therapy use. They require sometimes oral prednisone, steroids.”
But why is winter worse for asthma? According to Dr. Happel there are two main reasons. 1.) The dry cold air irritates one’s airways. 2). The cold keeps people indoors, so they’re exposed to more indoor asthma triggers than usual.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do prevent asthma attacks during the winter months.
Avoid Exercising in the Cold
Since the cold air can irritate your lungs, Dr. Happel recommends exercising in gyms or walking around malls instead. If you do choose to exercise outside, make sure to bring your rescue inhaler.
Remember Your Control Medications
If you’ve been prescribed control medications to keep your asthma symptoms in check, take them. Sometimes people forget or choose not to if they’re feeling well. But this can be dangerous, especially during winter months.
Know Your Asthma Triggers
It’s important to know what triggers your asthma so you can avoid it and take extra precautions.
Get the Flu Shot
As we’ve mentioned before, flus are one of the most common asthma triggers out there. Plus, they’re just not fun to get. So avoid the risk and get a flu shot.
Practice Good Hygiene
Colds, along with the many other respiratory illnesses one can catch, are also a major asthma trigger. So avoid getting sick altogether by practicing good hygiene. One of the most simple and effective ways is just to wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
Flus and colds are two of the most common asthma triggers, and unfortunately it’s flu season once again. These two illnesses share many similar symptoms-- runny nose, sore throat, coughing, etc. But the treatments are somewhat different, so it’s helpful to know which you have. How can you tell?
Flus are typically more severe than colds. Most of the time you can still function with a cold, but the flu can keep you stuck primarily to the bed or couch feeling miserable. Symptoms such as fatigue, aching, and chest discomfort are common in both flus and colds, but much more severe with the flu.
Colds usually have a gradual onset. At first you may just feel rundown, then you have a runny nose, then you a full blown cold. However, flus start suddenly with little to no warning.
Certain symptoms are unique to flus-- specifically fevers and headaches. Though they can occur with colds, this is the exception. Most of the time, fevers and headaches indicate you have the flu.
Treating the Flu
Drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration, and rest a lot so your body can fight off the virus. Over the counter medications can provide relief for symptoms such as fever, headache, and congestion. In more severe cases doctors can also prescribe antiviral drugs to speed up recovery.
Treating a Cold
Drinking lots of water will help you stay hydrated, and drinking orange juice or other drinks high in vitamin C is a common folk remedy for treating colds. Once again, over the counter medications can help you feel better, but with a cold there usually isn’t much to do other than wait a few days for it to go away. However, if it hasn’t gone away after a few days, check with your doctor as it may be a bacterial infection or other respiratory illness instead.
In the past, studies have shown that the risk of a child developing asthma increases when A) the mother uses antibiotics during pregnancy, or B) the child uses antibiotics early in life. This lead to a widespread belief that antibiotics can cause asthma.
But a group of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden felt that previous studies had not “sufficiently examined shared risk factors within families that could increase asthma risks, including genetics, home environment and lifestyle.” So from 2006 to 2010, these researchers examined nearly half a million Swedish children and used a sibling control analysis to see if there really was a causal link between asthma and antibiotics.
For example, previous studies concluded that when a mom uses antibiotics during pregnancy, the child has a 28% higher chance of developing asthma. But when researches included other risk factors such as the child’s genetics and environment by comparing multiple children within the same family, the link between asthma and antibiotics disappeared.
The researchers believe the correlation previous studies found between asthma and antibiotics could be explained by other factors. For example, a childhood respiratory infection that gets treated by antibiotics might be a misdiagnosed case of asthma. Plus, having a respiratory infection at all could lead to an increased asthma risk, whether it’s treated by antibiotics or not.
Researcher Professor Catarine Almqvist Malmros points out that even though there study showed “no causal link between antibiotics treatment and childhood asthma” that it’s still “important to use antibiotics very carefully, considering the threat of antibiotic resistance.”
Tidings of comfort and joy to you and yours! We hope this holiday season is full of food and fun, and free of asthma attacks. With that in mind, here are a few asthma triggers specific to the season to watch out for.
1. Dusty Decorations
Many people like to store their holiday decorations in the attic or closet so it can collect a year’s worth of dust before being brought back out again. To reduce any asthma issues, give those storage containers a good dusting and wash off the decorations that can get wet.
2. Christmas Trees
In addition to covering your carpet in prickly pine needles, Christmas trees are an excellent way to bring outdoor mold and pollen into your home. But fear not; simply wiping the tree down with a damp washcloth will remove much of the allergens.
Respiratory illnesses run rampant during the cold of winter, and relatives can bring strains from all across the country home to you. So while hosting or attending parties and visiting loved ones be sure to wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your face.
4. Roaring Fireplaces
One of the highlights of the cold is the chance to cuddle up in front of cozy fire. However, fireplaces release some smoke into your house and can trigger asthma. If you or a loved one is sensitive to smoke, in this case it may simply be best to do without the fire and crank up the heater instead.
The cold itself can trigger asthma by drying out the lungs and making one’s chest tighten. Scarfs provide a simple solution. As you breathe out, the cloth catches moisture. Then when you breathe back in, that moisture warms the air you breathe and keeps it moist.
A new study from Rotterdam, Netherlands says that kids who share a bed with their parents have a higher rate of childhood asthma.
The study collected yearly questionnaires from over 6,000 mothers while their children were between ages one and six. The questionnaires looked at both the child’s sleeping patterns and any asthma symptoms. It found that children who share a bed with parents during infancy did not have a higher risk of asthma. However, those who shared a bed after the first 24 months did have a higher risk of asthma.
The results could be explained in at least three different ways:
1. Parents might be sharing their bed with children who wheeze or show other asthma symptoms as a way to monitor their condition throughout the night. However, this reasoning doesn’t explain why there was no correlation between bed sharing in infancy and asthma risk.
2. It’s possible that bed sharing somehow causes asthma to develop. But it’s unclear why this would be the case.
3. Parents who share beds with children might just be more likely to notice poor breathing patterns such as wheezing and report them in the questionnaires. They would also be more attentive to any respiratory issues the child develops, and get them to a doctor’s office if need be.
So it might not be that kids who share beds are more likely to have asthma, just that they’re more likely to be diagnosed with asthma.
In Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, 20 year old Casey Kressin died of an asthma attack after a police officer pulled over his girlfriend Leah Hryniewicki for running a red light when she was trying to get Casey to the emergency room. Leah immediately started yelling that Casey was having an asthma attack and needed medical attention.
The officer would not allow the couple to drive to the hospital, but did call paramedics. An ambulance arrived six minutes later and took Casey to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The couple was only three miles from the hospital when the officer pulled them over.
An autopsy was performed which Leah hopes will prove the cops could have done more instead of “making Casey sit out on the side of the road suffering an asthma attack… in the freezing cold.”
The Chippewa Falls Police Chief Wendy Stelter stood behind the police officer’s decision, saying “What the officer was thinking was that this man was sitting there and I am going to keep him calm until the ambulance arrives… The officer feels that he did what he should have done, and I support him in that.”
But Leah feels very differently. She lashed out at the Chippewa Falls Police Force in a recent Facebook post, writing “Those cop’s treated us horrible that night wanting to hold my car until I let them search my car before I could leave knowing I just lost the one person that completed my life and my family. They will go on in life but me and my daughter have to wake up to this nightmare everyday of our lives.”
The autopsy has been completed, but the results have yet to be released.
Adenotonsillectomies, the surgical removal of one’s adenoids and tonsils, may decrease asthma symptoms in children according to a new study.
The study looked at the data of over 40,000 children with asthma. 13,506 of them had an adenotonsillectomy. 27,012 of them did not. Those who did have the procedure “showed a sharp decrease in acute asthma exacerbations in contrast with children who didn't.” Their number of emergency room visits due to asthma attacks decreased significantly, as did the number of prescriptions they acquired for asthma medication.
At this point, it’s uncertain why exactly an adenotonsillectomy would ease one’s asthma. But there are three theories.
1.) Sometimes people have excessive bacteria in their upper airways, including their tonsils. This buildup of bacteria can then make its way into the lungs and trigger an asthma attack. So without the tonsils, there isn’t as much buildup of bacteria.
2.) Proteins called interleukins, which are linked to asthma, decrease after tonsillectomies. However, it’s unknown why they decrease.
3.) Children with large tonsils have poor breathing patterns. One of the effects of large tonsils is sleep apnea-- a condition in which one briefly stops breathing several times throughout the night. So once the tonsils are removed, the child’s breathing pattern improves, leading to healthier lungs.
Researchers hope to confirm their new findings with clinical trials, but for now adenotonsillectomies are not a recommended method of asthma treatment. As Dr. Samantha Walker says, “Asthma is a complex condition with a number of triggers and symptoms, so we’d need to see much more research in this area before we could recommend tonsil or adenoid removal.”
Over the years we’ve written about many different asthma home remedies on this blog, but never any this strange. (Please note, we do not endorse the following home remedies, nor have they been proven effective. But they are certainly very interesting.)
1. Frog Smoothies
Yes, frog smoothies are made from actual frogs. They also contain carrots, Peruvian maca root, and honey. They are believed to cure respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis, decrease fatigue and stress, improve one’s sex drive, and treat tuberculosis.
This home remedy uses Telmatobius coleus frogs from Lake Titicaca in Peru. Unfortunately, these particular frogs are on the “critically endangered” list. Also, there is zero scientific evidence that the frogs actually do anything for one’s health.
2. The Power of Suggestion
Recently, a small study showed that the power of suggestion can trigger asthma symptoms. 17 asthmatics were divided into two groups and given pure rose scent. One group was told the scent could cause breathing trouble. The other was told it could help them breathe better.
Not surprisingly, the group who was told it could help them breathe better experienced no breathing difficulties. But the group who was told it could hurt their breathing experienced inflammation and feelings of sickness.
According to Dr. Gailen Marshall, if the power of suggestion can make your breathing worse, it may also be able to make your breathing better. She hypothesizes that carrying a sachet with a soothing smell could, in theory, decrease asthma symptoms and make patients less reliant on their inhalers.
Allergies are one of the most common asthma triggers. And research done at the University of Nottingham shows that hookworms can “suppress the body’s inflammatory response to allergies, especially the one from dust mites.”
So it’s possible that getting a hookworm infestation could ease your asthma symptoms. However, the researchers warn that hookworms do not have this effect on everyone. Either way, it’s probably best to avoid all three of these bizarre home remedies and just stick with your good old inhaler or nebulizer.
It’s fall allergy season, and people all across the country are sniffing and sneezing. This is especially true in the area from the south Midwest to the Southeast, which is affectionately known as the “Pollen Belt” because it has the highest pollen counts in the country.
But fear not, allergy sufferers! Here’s how you can reduce your allergy symptoms and enjoy a happier, healthier fall.
1. Take Your Medicine Before Your Allergies Start
There’s no sense in waiting to be miserable before you take your allergy medication. Fight your allergies preemptively and take your medication before doing an activity that you know will set off your allergies, such as going outside.
2. Use a HEPA Filter in Your Bedroom
Using a HEPA filter in your bedroom, will remove pollen from the air you breathe all night. That way you’ll get better sleep and wake up without being stuffy and groggy.
3. Shower Before Bed
During the day, you collect pollen on your skin and hair. Showering before bed helps you remove all that pollen and avoid tracking it onto your bedding. Plus, warm shower water can help clear sinuses.
4. Wash Your Pets
You know who else collects pollen on their hair? Your pets. Washing your pets can greatly reduce the amount of pollen that gets tracked into your home, especially if your pets go outdoors frequently.
5. Clean Your Bedding, Curtains, and Carpets
Over time, your bedding, curtains and carpets collect tons of pollen. Giving them a good cleaning will reduce the pollen count in your home and help you breathe easier.
Halotherapy, a new type of respiratory treatment, is growing in popularity all across the United States, Europe, and Canada. In this new therapy, people go to relaxing spa rooms with soft lighting and pleasant music to breathe in salt. Salt covers the floors and walls of these rooms, and a machine called a halogenerator sends microscopic salt particles floating through the air.
Why breathe salt? According to proponents of halotherapy, breathing salt helps relieve asthma and allergy symptoms.
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to support these claims. Back in ancient Greece, Hippocrates told his patients to inhale salt water steam as a way to relieve respiratory conditions. For centuries, people have trekked to Eastern Europe’s salt caves which are said to ease respiratory and skin conditions. And in 19th century Poland, doctors noted that salt miners had fewer respiratory illnesses than the rest of the population. Even on our blog we’ve mentioned going to the beach and breathing in the salty ocean air as a cystic fibrosis home remedy.
However, critics consider halotherapy a folk remedy and point out that there “have been no clinical studies of salt therapy in the U.S.”
Nonetheless, many who go to “Salt Spas” say it’s made a major difference in their health and well-being. For example, Angela Kassai struggled with asthma, severe allergies, and sinusitis for years, until a friend from Hungary told her about salt therapy. “After the first session, we saw a huge result,” said Kassai’s daughter, Klaudia Nord. The two now own their own Salt Spa in Silicon Valley.
Asthmatics who are vitamin D deficient are 25% more likely to have an asthma attack according to a new study from Tel Aviv University.
Several studies have been conducted on the links between vitamin D and asthma, some suggesting there’s a strong link between the two, and others casting doubt that there’s a link at all. According to Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen, one of the authors on this new study, “Most of the existing data regarding vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and ‘uncontaminated’ by other diseases.”
For its study, Tel Aviv University looked at more than 21,000 asthmatics between the ages of 22 and 50 who had their vitamin D levels measured by their healthcare provider. Even after accounting for other asthma risk factors, including smoking, obesity, and other chronic illnesses, the researchers found that those with low vitamin D levels were 25% more likely to have an asthma attack.
“Our results support a recommendation for screening of vitamin D levels in the subgroup of asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations. In those with vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be necessary,” said Dr. Confino-Cohen.
These recommendations contradict a study from earlier this year which found that vitamin D supplements don’t improve asthma symptoms. Hopefully, we’ll find a clearer answer in the future as scientists continue to debate this issue and test the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements for asthmatics.
Over the past month, two new devices for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been in the news-- one very high tech, and the other very low tech.
The eCareCompanion is a new high tech wearable health-tracker developed by Philips Healthcare, a company that makes some of our most popular nebulizers. The eCareCompanion records a patient’s physical activity and inactivity, respiratory function, heart rhythm, and heart rate. This data is then sent to a cloud based system that both the patient and doctor can access.
According to Philips Healthcare CEO Jeroen Tas, “Instead of people just going to the hospital when things have deteriorated… [the information] is coming in way ahead.”
The eCareCompanion should lead to better healthcare for COPD patients, and give doctors a better understanding of how the disease works.
The Lung Flute is a simple low tech device which, according to a new study, significantly improves the symptoms of COPD. To use the Lung Flute, patients blow into it like a musical instrument. The sound waves produced by the flute will then break up chunks of mucus in the patient’s lungs.
The study looked at 69 COPD patients over the course of six month. “This study confirms that the Lung Flute improves symptoms and health status in COPD patients, decreasing the impact of the disease… and improving their quality of life,” said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, principal author on the study.
The Lung Flute is FDA approved and requires a prescription. It retails for $45.
Last year, about 250,000 teens who had never smoked before tried e-cigarettes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a shocking threefold increase since 2011. This trend is largely due to the fact that e-cigarettes have been marketed to the public as a “safe” alternative to traditional cigarettes.
There’s some truth to this claim. E-cigarettes don’t contain the harmful tar that regular cigarettes fill a smoker’s lungs with. In some cases, e-cigarettes have even helped people quit smoking. Those trying to quit switch from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes, and then to e-cigarettes that only contain water vapor. Also, e-cigarettes, like traditional cigarettes, reduce one’s appetite and, since they’re a stimulant, can increase alertness.
However, like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are “addictive and habit forming, and… very toxic” according to warning labels on e-cigarette packages. Plus, they contain lung irritants that can cause allergic reactions and even trigger asthma attacks.
One of these irritants is nicotine, the highly addictive chemical that makes cigarettes so hard to quit. Nicotine causes inflammation, worsening allergy and asthma symptoms. E-cigarettes also contain tiny nanoparticles which “aggravate and inflame the mucus membranes in the lungs.” Plus, the flavors added to certain e-cigarettes can cause allergic reactions.
Though they may not be as bad as traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are still bad for your health and highly addictive, doctors warn. E-cigarettes can bring out asthma symptoms in those with mild asthma, and could even cause life threatening attacks in those with severe asthma.
We’ve long known that the common cold can trigger asthma attacks. In fact, the World Health Organizations says that 80 to 90% of all asthma attacks are caused by airway infections, the most common of which is the common cold. But until now, scientists didn’t know how exactly colds triggered asthma attacks.
Turns out, it all has to do with a tiny molecule called IL-25. Asthmatic’s bodies produce IL-25 in excess when they get a cold. IL-25 is a type-2 cytokine that sets off a chain reaction resulting in the production of many other type-2 cytokines. Together, these type-2 cytokines cause type-2 immune responses in the body, including inflamed airways and increased mucus production.
The good news is this knowledge has shown scientists a new way to try treating cold-triggered asthma. If they can successfully target and block IL-25, then this should stop the chain reaction which results in an asthma attack.
According to Professor Sebastian Johnston, one of the leaders on the new study, the current steroid-based asthma medications that one takes through their inhaler or nebulizer are “highly effective at controlling regular asthma symptoms” but less effective at treating asthma symptoms triggered by a cold. He and his colleagues hope to test targeting and blocking IL-25 soon, and “to investigate other possible pathways that could be important in asthma attacks.”
Since around 3,000 BC, doctors have been using a wide variety of methods to prevent and treat asthma. Some of the suggested treatments over the years are not only ineffective, but harmful. Other treatments likely were effective, although not as good as the nebulizers and inhalers we use today.
We now know that tobacco smokes irritates one’s airways, and that kids who are regularly exposed to second hand smoke have an increased risk of developing asthma. But back in the 1800s, doctors actually recommended children smoke cigarettes to help them deal with their asthma.
In the 1800s, doctors believed people were more likely to have an asthma attack if they were sleepy. Therefore, they thought taking stimulants would prevent asthma attacks. One such stimulant doctors recommended was marijuana. However, marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, is an asthma irritant.
In the past, doctors believed alcohol could stimulant one’s nervous system and stop an asthma attack. We now know that alcohol is a potential asthma trigger and dries out airways, making asthma attacks even worse.
Potentially Effective Treatments
Doctors recommended coffee for the same reason they recommended marijuana-- to decrease sleepiness which they believed would decrease the likelihood of an asthma attack. But unlike marijuana, coffee actually can ease asthma symptoms. It contains methylxanthine, a bronchodilator, and does not create any irritating smoke.
2. Ancient Egyptian Nebulizer
The ancient Egyptians invented a device for inhaling medicines to help ease asthma. It sounds a bit like an ancient nebulizer. According to the Ebers Papyrus, “Thou shalt fetch seven stones and heat them by fire. Thou shalt take one thereof and place a little of these remedies on it and cover it with a new vessel whose bottom is perforated, and place a stalk of reed in this hole. Thou shalt put thy mouth to this stalk, so that thou inhalest the smoke of it. Likewise with all stones.”
Unlike modern nebulizers, this method creates smoke which is an asthma irritant. However, the concept of making medicine inhalable so one can breathe it in is great, and still helps asthma sufferers today.
Asthma is a noncommunicable disease, meaning it doesn’t spread from person to person. We don’t know exactly what causes asthma, but we do know it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some of these factors you’d probably guess. For example, if a child is around tobacco smoke, he’s more likely to develop asthma. Other factors are more surprising. For example, I never would have guessed that asthma risk can be increased by--
1. Job Insecurity
After the economic downturn hit Europe in 2008, many people found themselves worrying about whether or not they’d be able to keep their jobs. A team of German researchers looked at the effects of job insecurity on health and found that “every 25% increase in perceived likelihood of job loss was tied to a 24% increased risk of being diagnosed with new-onset asthma.”
Phthalates are the group of chemicals that make plastic flexible. And they’re everywhere-- from school supplies to nail polish and even blue jeans. A study at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health was unable to find any American woman who weren’t exposed to phthalates, but they did find that those with a higher level of phthalates in their urine were 72% to 78% more likely to have children who develop asthma.
Speaking of having kids, babies born via Caesarean section rather than vaginal birth are 20% more likely to develop asthma. This is most likely because C-sections expose babies to more bacteria which could in turn modify their immune system and make them more susceptible to asthma.
Mankind didn’t always have nebulizers and inhalers. Once upon a time, the treatments for “asthma” were much cruder, crueler, and less effective. I put “asthma” in quotation marks because back in the 1800s “asthma” referred to “any disease or illness that caused shortness of breath, such as heart failure, bronchitis,” and many others.
To understand these old timey treatments, you have to understand the mindset of old timey doctors. They believed asthma was caused by harmful matter in the body, so to cure it, harmful matter had to be removed from the body. Doctors would attempt to do this with treatments such as…
These are medicines that make you vomit, which in theory would expel the harmful matter from your body. This treatment would be used if the asthma attack occurred right after the patient had eaten. Some doctors even recommended vomiting once a month as a way to prevent asthma.
These are medicines that make you poop, again to rid your body of harmful matter.
These are medicines that make you sweat.
These are medicines that make you pee. Interestingly, this treatment in some cases would have actually worked. We now know that diuretics help patients who have shortness of breath due to fluid in the lungs caused by heart failure. Back in the 1800s, this shortness of breath would have been diagnosed as “asthma.”
These are medicines that make you hack up phlegm and other unpleasant fluids from your lungs.
This is the process of removing blood from the patient. The theory was, once again, that this would help get rid of harmful matter in the patient’s body. Back in the day, bloodletting was used to cure everything from acne to strokes, or even insanity.
Fortunately, our modern treatments are much more effective than removing random bodily fluids and hoping for the best. So if you find your nebulizer treatments boring, just be glad you aren’t living in the 1800s.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic, potentially deadly disease that affects one’s respiratory and digestive systems. “It’s like having bronchitis every day of your life,” said Angela Spera, whose 10 year old son lives with the condition.
Spera is one of many committed to fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in hopes of one day finding a cure. Here are some of the more unique fundraisers--
This year marks the sixth annual PirateFest in Orange Beach, Alabama. Attendees can enjoy live music, arts and crafts, food and drink, and of course dress up like a pirate. The yearly festival is spearheaded by Henry and Angela Bateman, whose son has cystic fibrosis. Over the past five years, PirateFest has raised over $35,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
2. Hillbilly Run
If you enjoy running and don’t mind being attacked by hillbillies, then you should check out the annual Hillbilly Run in Chunky, Mississippi. This fun run offers plenty of mud as well as obstacles made from hay, water, and even pumpkins. And of course, there will be angry hillbillies chasing you! Costumes are encouraged, as are towels and changes of clothes.
3. Taste of the Tier
But if pirates and hillbillies aren’t your cup of tea, there’s always the Taste of the Tier in Binghmton, New York. The event, organized by Spera, brings together restaurants and wineries from all over the region so attendees can enjoy great food and drink, while supporting a good cause. In addition to raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Taste of the Tier also honors those in the community who volunteer to help battle the disease.
Across the country, hospitals are experiencing a surge in emergency room visits from children dealing with respiratory illness. The culprit is enterovirus 68. It mostly affects children, not adults, and can be especially harmful to those with asthma. The virus worsens asthma symptoms and even causes asthma-like symptoms in children who don’t have the condition.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed cases of enterovirus 68 in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. There are also suspected cases in Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Enteroviruses are actually very common, and affect 10 to 15 million people every year. Many of those people don’t experience any symptoms. Others just have a minor cold. But enterovirus 68 is a particularly severe strain. It was first discovered in California in 1962, but there hadn’t been many reported cases until this recent outbreak.
A sad scary story has emerged this week about Jorge Azucena, a man who died of an asthma attack in police custody, despite the fact that he repeatedly pleaded for help from the arresting officers, informing them that he had asthma and couldn’t breathe.
Even though the story has only come to light recently, the events took place nearly a year ago on September 6, 2013. Azucena ran a red light. The police attempted to pull him over. Azucena sped ahead, leading the police on a car chase which eventually turned into a foot chase when Azucena abandoned his vehicle. He was eventually caught and taken into custody, and soon began complaining of an asthma attack.
According to the reports, Azucena said “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. I have asthma, I have asthma.” Then a short time later, “I can’t breathe. Help me, help me, I can’t breathe.” And then later, “I can’t breathe. I’m messed up.”
The good news: There’s a new cystic fibrosis drug, which is said to be a “breakthrough.”
The bad news: It costs $300,000 per patient per year, putting it out of the price range of most patients.
More bad news: The drug, Kalydeco, will only work for a small handful of cystic fibrosis patients. There are a variety of cystic fibrosis mutations which require different treatments. Kalydeco treats a mutation that affects only 4% of cystic fibrosis patients. Which is a big part of the cost problem; because demand is so low, prices are sky high.
Kalydeco is the first drug to directly treat the faulty gene that causes cystic fibrosis. According to Dr. Michael Powers from Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, “[Kalydeco] for this particular mutation is very effective. The benefits include improved lung function and reduced hospitalizations. It changed the environment of the lung to make it more normal.”
That being said, the drug is not a cure; it’s an ongoing treatment. Which means the costs are also ongoing. This puts both doctors and patients in a tough position. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening condition, and what could be worth more than life? But with the median household income of Americans being just over $51,000, for most people it’s just not realistic.
Powers hopes that as more drugs come out for the other more common cystic fibrosis mutations, the price will be driven down. And even though this expensive drug may not be a practical solution for most patients, a new treatment is at least a step in the right direction.
Last week we wrote about 5 uncommon asthma triggers. Turns out, there are several more worth knowing about. For example--
Who would have guessed that one of our most common foods is also an asthma trigger? Bakers, that’s who. Flour dust irritating the lungs is a common occupational hazard for bakers. In fact, many professional bakers develop asthma as a result.
2. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit can be a delicious and healthy snack, as long as it doesn’t set off your allergies or asthma. The issue with dried fruit is the sulfites they contain. These sulfites do three things-- keep the dried fruit fresh, keep the dried fruit bright, and emit sulfur dioxide, a gas that can irritate one’s lungs and trigger an asthma attack.
You’re probably well aware that things like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks. But there are several more asthma triggers out there you may never have thought of. For example--
Though cute, ladybugs can wreak havoc on your asthma, especially if large amounts of them infest your home and start dying. Like most living things, their bodies decompose and turn to dust, creating a “strong” allergen according to Dr. Timothy Craig.
Laser printers disperse ultrafine particles that can mess with your asthma. In one case, a 44-year-old secretary suffered from asthma and allergy symptoms for up to 20 minutes after every trip she took to the photocopier.
Ragweed, one of the most common summer/fall allergy triggers, usually arrives in mid to late August, bringing with it much sneezing and congestion. For those with asthma, it may make symptoms worse or even trigger asthma attacks. Fortunately, there are some things you can do and some things you should avoid doing to help keep your allergic reaction under control.
Don’t go outdoors between 10am and 4pm.
This is when pollen counts are at their highest. Of course, you can’t always avoid going outside, but minimizing it should help.
Don’t bother wearing a surgical mask.
As it turns out, they’re not that great at keeping pollen out of the air you breathe. To really avoid breathing pollen, you’d need to wear a hazmat suit and that’s probably overkill.
Thunderstorm asthma is a thankfully rare, but still dangerous phenomenon in which people’s asthma and allergy symptoms get worse immediately following a thunderstorm. Why? Scientists don’t know. But they have a guess.
The theory is that thunderstorm winds lift pollen, mold spores, and other allergens into the air where rain drops pummel them into tiny pieces. Then the pieces fall back down and are breathed in. It’s also possible that the static electricity created by the thunderstorm causes the particles to be more likely to stick to one’s lungs, making symptoms worse.
Thunderstorm asthma is an uncommon phenomenon; there have only been 35 scientific publications about it. It does not occur during the majority or thunderstorms, nor does it affect the majority of asthmatics. For example, a 2008 study which looked at 12 years of data found that emergency room visits related to asthma attacks were only 3% higher than usual during the 24 hour periods after thunderstorms.
Steroid-containing asthma medications are one of the most effective treatments for both children and adults living with asthma. They’ve been shown to improve quality of life, minimize hospital visits, and most importantly reduce the number of asthma deaths. But according to two systemic reviews, they may come with a negative side effect-- suppressing growth in children.
The first review looked at 25 asthma drug trials participated in by over 8,400 children with mild to moderate asthma. They found that the children treated with steroid-based drugs grew 0.2 inches less over the course of their first year of treatment than the children treated with placebos or non-steroid drugs.
For a while we’ve known that asthma correlates with obesity. However, it hasn’t been clear whether or not one condition causes the other. Now, a new joint study by the University of Queensland, Australia and the University of Bristol, UK claims that obesity can cause asthma.
According to one of the study’s authors, David Evans, "In the past we haven't been sure whether a high BMI [body mass index] causes asthma, or if asthma causes high BMI, or another variable entirely is responsible for both… We tested genes that we knew were related to BMI. If increased BMI were truly responsible for increased risk of asthma, then we would expect that these genes would also show a relationship with increased risk of asthma, which is exactly what we found."
Asthma and allergies are both caused by the body’s immune system overacting to a relatively harmless trigger. In order to lessen this overreaction, a new breathable medication called quilizumab is being developed that interrupts the production of immunoglobulin type E (IgE)-- the protein that triggers allergic reactions.
IgE works by binding to allergens when one’s body is first exposed to them. Then when the body is re-exposed to the same allergen, the IgE proteins will trigger inflammation. This causes an allergic reaction or asthma attack.
Over the past few years, mobile apps have become a huge industry. Last year, approximately 102 billion apps were downloaded and, though most were free, they generated $26 billion in revenue. One of the most interesting developments is the rise of medical apps, including apps for people with asthma. Here are three you might find useful--
Wellapets is an innovative educational game that helps children with asthma better understand their condition so they can control it. In the game, your child will take care of a virtual pet with asthma and learn when and how to take asthma medication, and what triggers might cause an asthma attack. Ann Wu’s daughter Allsion plays the game and according to Ann, it’s been a great educational tool. “She’s learning how to take ownership of her own illness and not needing me for everything.”
Asthma rates have been soaring around the world and specifically in the US for years. But now, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there’s been a major drop in the percentage of Americans with asthma, from 8.6% in 2012 all the way down to 7.4% in 2013. That’s the lowest reported asthma percentage in a decade and would represent a decline of more than 3 million people.
Many experts find this hard to believe, including those who conducted the study. The study’s lead author Jeannine Schiller said, “I wouldn’t say it’s good news-- yet.”