May 30, 2014 8:00 AM

There is nothing scarier than feeling like you can’t breathe. Breath is life. Yet, for one in five Americans the possibility they may not be able to breathe is always present – due to asthma. Every day, 44-thousand people suffer an asthma attack. And every day, nine people die from one. That’s 5,000 people a year on average. But are any of these deaths preventable? According to Wayne Samuelson, MD, a pulmonologist with University of Utah Health, the answer may be yes – by stopping the severe attacks that can end in death.

“The best way to deal with a serious asthma attack is never to have one,” Samuelson says. “I’m not being facetious, prevention is far better than treatment. Most asthma patients have been prescribed controller medications, such as a corticosteroid inhaler which is only effective if used every day consistently.” Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also key. “Maintain good health habits and fitness,” Samuelson says, and he recommends being aware of your environment. “Recognize and avoid triggers whenever possible.”

Taking preventative measures is just part of the way to avoid a life threatening attack. The other part is planning. Asthmatics should “have settled on an action plan for emergency events well in advance,” according to Samuelson. A basic plan should include access to an albuterol rescue inhaler for use at the first signs of symptoms. It should also include a plan of action in case the rescue inhaler is not enough – in a timely manner. According to Samuelson, in nearly all fatal asthma attacks the patient “failed to seek medical attention early.” Basically, if two puffs on a rescue inhaler aren’t helping, head to the ER or call 9-1-1.

For more information on asthma and asthma treatments visit the University of Utah Asthma Clinics. Then? Take a deep breath.


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