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Screening For Asthma

Millions of Americans suffer from asthma, including many who don't even know they have it.

All month long, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is offering free asthma screening tests across the country.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay offers the following advice on who should consider getting tested.

Asthma is a serious and potentially life-threatening chronic lung condition that is triggered by irritants in the air and the environment. Asthma causes the airways in the lungs to constrict and restricts the ability to breathe. It can be deadly. Five thousand people die a year. Asthma also results in half a million hospitalizations and two million emergency department visits.

There is no cure for asthma, but advances in treatment have made it a highly controllable condition. But for millions of people, asthma remains out of control. Senay says part of the problem is that many of the symptoms can be mild, and people who have asthma may not seek attention until it's too late and a severe attack occurs.

This is the eighth year the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology have offered nationwide asthma screening, and they've screened about more than 73,000 thousand people, adults and children.

(Click here for more about the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program.)

Senay says the asthma screening is a very simple questionnaire, and a breathing test, which can tell doctors a lot about whether or not your lungs are functioning well. If they find something then they can send you on to an asthma specialist. It's not only for people who are worried or wondering if they have asthma. If you already know you have asthma and you want to see if it's under control or if the medicines you take are working properly, or you just haven't been to see the doctor in a while, you can also check in and they'll check you out.

The warning signs of asthma are problems with breathing. They can include shortness of breath, cough, tightness in the chest and wheezing.

Senay says a doctor needs to be alerted if a person experiences these symptoms to determine whether they have asthma. If you know you have it, you can treat it and take steps to avoid the things that trigger it.

Asthma can be triggered by a variety of irritants, and the newly-arrived spring allergy season presents plenty of triggers that can cause trouble.

Asthma can be brought on by allergens like:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Pet dander and dust
  • Some drugs and food additives
  • Viral respiratory infections
  • Exercise
  • Pollutants in the air from smoking, cars and industry.
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