Today marks the 20th annual World Asthma Day, an event held each May to raise awareness of asthma worldwide. The American Thoracic Society has joined the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and other founding members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) in recognizing this year’s theme: “Never too early, never too late. It’s always the right time to address airways disease.”
According to WHO estimates, 235 million people suffer from asthma, which can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to control it to reduce and prevent asthma attacks or episodes. In the US, approximately half of people with asthma had at least one asthma attack in 2012. More children (55%) than adults (49%) had an attack.
The most common chronic disease among children, asthma is not just a public health problem for high income countries, it occurs in all countries regardless of level of development. Over 80 percent of asthma deaths occurs in low and lower-middle income countries. Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated, creating a substantial burden to individuals and families and possibly restricting individuals’ activities for a lifetime.
Asthma attacks cause adults to miss work and children to miss school. Dangerous and sometimes life-threatening episodes rob patients of a good quality of life. However, patients can prevent asthma attacks by avoiding asthma triggers like tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and colds and flu. Asthma episodes can also be prevented by using inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed daily long-term control medicines correctly.
This year’s theme is a call to action for both patients and health care providers worldwide to evaluate symptoms regardless of when they occur and take actions to ensure that the asthma is controlled.
World Asthma Day was first held in 1998, and has grown each year to become one of the most important Asthma events globally. On World Asthma Day, hundreds of awareness-raising activities will take place in countries all over the world. Further information about GINA and World Asthma Day can be found at GINA’s website: www.ginasthma.org. Documents detailing GINA’s global strategy for diagnosis, management, and prevention of COPD are also available at www.ginasthma.org.