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Boy using asthma inhaler

It is estimated that over 300,000 people have asthma in the Breathe California of Sacramento Emigrant Trails 28 county service area and asthma is one of the leading cause of school absences and lost workdays. Why is it such a problem?

The increase is related to complex and multiple causes including:

  1. Lack of education on self-management and/or diagnosis
  2. Access to medical services and/or not receiving the medical help necessary to manage their asthma
  3. Outdoor air pollution caused primarily by vehicle emissions in our non-attainment air basin
  4. Secondhand smoke and other indoor air pollution
  5. Dissemination of asthma management guidelines and healthcare providers following these guidelines

Asthma must be aggressively attacked. Asthma intervention with public health strategies are needed in three major areas medical management, environment and schools. With the guidance of our Asthma Collaborative, we are actively working toward reducing the severity and prevalence of asthma in our local communities.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a long term disease that affects the lungs. It causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow or blocked, caused by a heightened sensitivity to various stimuli.

What Causes Asthma?

When you have asthma, certain things that generally do not bother people without asthma can affect your sensitive airways. These things are called asthma triggers. They can be irritants, infections, exercise, or allergens.

Irritants, infections, and exercise are triggers for most people with asthma. Many people with asthma are also sensitized to allergens such as pollens, animal dander, cockroaches, dust and molds. You should discuss with your doctor whether you are allergic to anything and, if you are, what you are allergic to. Once you have identified your particular asthma triggers, you can often control your asthma by avoiding them.

Common Indoor Triggers

  • Smoke (from cigarettes, fireplaces, incense, etc.)
  • Perfumes
  • Dust
  • Aerosol sprays, including hairspray
  • Strong chemical fumes

What Can You Do About Irritant Triggers in Your Home?

  • Keep your entire home smoke-free
  • Change your house filter often
  • Do not use fireplaces, wood burning stoves, or incense
  • Avoid using household chemicals with strong odors, such as bleach

Common Outdoor Triggers

  • Change of weather
  • Pollens, trees & grasses
  • Cold dry air
  • Smog

What Can You Do About Irritant Triggers in the Outside Environment?

  • If cold air triggers your asthma, wear a scarf over your mouth and nose
  • Stay indoors on days when the air quality is poor, especially in the afternoon

Symptoms of Asthma

Those affected by asthma usually suffer from wheezing, loss of breath, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing. Breathing problems and wheezing associated with asthma typically occur in “episodes” – a series of events that result in narrowed airways.

The symptoms of asthma may be different for each person. You may have a dry cough at night or wheeze when you have a cold. You may have chest tightness when you exercise. You may have episodes of wheezing and difficulty breathing. When asthma begins to act up, you may have a scratchy throat, itchy eyes, or a runny nose.

You may have symptoms every day or only occasionally. Learn to recognize your own symptoms and what to do. If you act quickly, your attack is likely to be less severe. Work with your health care provider to make an individualized plan to control your asthma.

Treatment of Asthma

Girl using asthma inhaler

Taking the proper medication can help control asthma. If not properly managed, asthma can be a life-threatening disease. Medicine, either taken in the form of a pill or through an inhaler, can help to avoid the onset of asthma attacks. Quick-relief and long-term control options are both available. Quick relief medicines help to control the symptoms in the event of an attack while long-term control medication can reduce the number and severity of attacks but do not assist during an actual attack. If you are experiencing constant coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or colds lasting more than 10 days, contact your doctor.


Allergies and Asthma

If you suffer from asthma, the following are some Dos and Don'ts that you can follow during the pollen and mold seasons to lessen your exposure to the pollens or molds that may trigger your allergy symptoms and cause an asthma attack.

DO keep windows closed at night to prevent pollens or molds from drifting into your home. Instead, if needed, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools, and dries the air.

DO minimize early morning activity when pollen is usually emitted-between 5-10 a.m.

DO keep your car windows closed when traveling.

DO try to stay indoors when the pollen count or humidity is reported to be high, and on windy days when dust and pollen are blown about.

DO take a vacation during the height of the pollen season to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach or sea.

DO take medications prescribed by your allergist/immunologist regularly, in the recommended dosage.

DON'T take more medication than recommended in an attempt to lessen your symptoms.

DON'T mow lawns or be around freshly cut grass; mowing stirs up pollens and molds.

DON'T rake leaves, as this also stirs up molds.

DON'T hang sheets or clothing out to dry. Pollens and molds may collect in them.

DON'T grow too many, or overwater, indoor plants if you are allergic to mold. Wet soil encourages mold growth.

When to see an allergist:

  • If you suspect you may have asthma, or your asthma has recently gotten worse
  • If you have allergies that are making your asthma worse
  • If your asthma has been life-threatening, or required intubation (breathing machine)
  • If your asthma making it difficult to exercise, sleep through the night, or causing you to miss work or school
  • If you have recently visited the ER or been hospitalized because of your asthma
  • If you are concerned about the side effects of your asthma medications
  • If you are using your quick-relief or rescue inhaler more than twice a week for asthma symptoms
  • If your asthma is not well controlled

Reference: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)

Asthma Medication at School

As of January 1, 2005, a California law has authorized students to carry and self-administer inhaled asthma medication if the school district has written permission from the child’s health provider and parent or guardian. Prior to passage of the law, school districts were not required to permit students with asthma to carry and self-administer their medications at the onset of an asthma attack.

For more information about asthma and our asthma programs, contact Cassie Gardener at (916) 444-5900 ext. 215 or



Your Asthma Book

Your Asthma Book

Your Asthma Book is a resource created by our Asthma Collaborative to help asthma sufferers better understand and manage their asthma.

The tool kit is in its 5th revision and is currently available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hindi, Russian, and Chinese. More than 35,000 copies have been distributed around the world to Bangladesh, Bosnia, Canada, Indonesia, New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Your Asthma Book is available in 6 languages:







Download a free copy of Your Asthma Book today by clicking the links above, or contact Cassie Gardener at (916) 444-5900 ext. 215 or to have a hard copy sent to you.

Please note: Multiple copies can be requested for a nominal fee.

Teens and Asthma

Group of Teens

Our Asthma Collaborative and Teen Asthma Task Force created a series of questions and answers geared towards teens to help them and their parents better understand the disease and how to control it. The materials will also help school staff better understand the seriousness of asthma among this age group.

Click here for more information.

Asthma in the Classroom

Asthma in the Classroom

Asthma in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide is a booklet that discusses asthma and how teachers can help students if they are struggling with the disease. It also provides teachers with insight on how to help asthmatic students overcome social and emotional factors that may occur as a result of their asthma.

Click here to download a copy of Asthma in the Classroom now, or contact Cassie Gardener at (916) 444-5900 ext. 215 or to have a hard copy sent to you.

Little Lungs Kit

The Little Lungs Kit is a packet of information designed to help child care providers and families become healthier through the use of handy references regarding asthma, secondhand smoke and air pollution.

For more information about the Little Lungs Kit, contact Cassie Gardener at (916) 444-5900 ext 215 or

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