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May: Asthma Awareness Month

By Dorian James

Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease… and one that affects almost 20 million people in the United States. Statistics for asthma in America are so high that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has labeled it an epidemic. As we close out Asthma Awareness Month, it is important for Milwaukeeans to remember: Milwaukee is one of the worst asthma cities in the U.S.

Milwaukee is plagued by asthma more than most cities in the U.S. and currently is in the midst of an asthma crisis. As recently as 2009, Milwaukee ranked second in the prevalence of asthma, and has been in the top 5 worst cities for asthma for almost a decade. Asthma is the number one admitting diagnosis at Children’s Hospital ER and third leading cause of all pediatric hospital admissions. It is also the number one cause of school absenteeism.

There are many uncontrollable triggers that can cause an asthma attack, but one trigger we can control is exposure to cigarette smoke.

Cigarette smoke can permanently damage lungs. It contains more than 250 toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer; it also causes a person to cough, wheeze and have chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Having asthma alone can be debilitating and life-threatening. If you have asthma and smoke, the best thing you can do is quit. And if you have a child in the house, don’t risk their lungs and life, you should take it outside.

When a child is exposed to tobacco smoke, their lungs become irritated and airways become swollen and inflamed making them much narrower and harder to breathe. According to the American Lung Association, an estimated 400,000 to one million asthmatic children have their condition worsened through exposure to secondhand smoke. The tragic part, that is completely preventable, is all the children with asthma who have lost their lives due to tobacco smoke exposure. The one’s that do survive in that environment have more respiratory infections, emergency room visits and hospitalizations; a terrible price to pay for someone else’s enjoyment of a cigarette.

As we celebrate Asthma Awareness Month this May, let’s make it a little bit easier for those with asthma to breathe. Let’s not expose them unnecessarily to secondhand smoke. Show our children your love by protecting their lungs for life.

Smokers looking to quit can visit for free tips and resources. Dorian James is a Asthma Care Specialist and a member of the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network. She can be reached at: Pulmedix Asthma Care Center & PFT Lab 6815 W. Capitol Dr. Suite 216 Milwaukee, WI 53216 Ph: 414-397-6462