Autumn causing asthma problems

By Raya Tahan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA students new to Tucson who have recently found themselves wheezing are not alone.

"Within the last week, my asthma has been bad," said Whitney Peel, family studies junior. "It's really an inconvenience to daily activities."

Asthma is the most common chronic disease seen at the Student Health Center, said Dr. Leslie Robinson, an internist in the General Medicine Department.

Tucson has a reputation as a therapeutic place for people with lung problems, Robinson said. Tucson, however, has not only native pollens, but olive trees, mulberry trees and grasses that trigger symptoms in asthmatics. While mold is not found here as abundantly as in other regions, she said, microscopic bugs called dust mites often exist in people's homes, causing asthma.

"Sometimes people will be in a new environment and become allergic," Robinson said.

Asthma usually is caused by allergies to inhaled substances. Common symptoms are wheezing, tightness in the lungs, chest pain, and coughing following exercise.

"Acknowledge that you have a problem," Robinson said. "A lot of people do not realize they have asthma. Should they realize there's a problem, it's easily treated if they come in."

Treatments for asthma range from inhalers to tablets to a nebulizer, a device that puts medicine into the patient's lungs, Robinson said.

The severity of each case is easily diagnosed by using a peak flow meter that measures the strength of an individual's breathing or by taking a chest X-ray, Robinson said.

The peak problem times for asthmatics, she said, are October and in the spring.

Asthma has become more common in the U.S. and mortality from it has increased, she said. This is due to the unguided use of over-the-counter medications that are not not supervised by a physician. An increase of inner-city pollutants is an additional cause.

To prevent symptoms from recurring, asthmatics should not exercise outdoors where pollens are most common, Robinson said. Swimming is a safe exercise because the humidified air does not cause allergies.

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