Catch your breath … if you can

Inhaled medications can control asthma attacks. (Shutterstock/Lopolo)

Focus on your breathing. You hear that advice all the time — as a way to relax, calm mind and body, and lower blood pressure.

For people in the midst of an asthma attack, every breath can be a battle. More than 230 million people worldwide experience the frightening reality of asthma attacks.

What’s worse, as air pollution increases and climate change speeds up, health experts predict asthma attacks wil become more serious and affect more people.

“This means that we have more people exposed to triggers that can cause asthma attacks, and more asthma attacks mean more days of school missed,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in April. “They mean more days of work missed. They mean more costly trips to the doctor. And they most importantly mean more scary moments for parents and for children.”

Asthma is a chronic disease of the the air passages of the lungs. When irritated by pollutants and allergens, air passages become inflamed and narrow. Asthma can’t be cured, but it can be managed with medication. That’s the message that health advocates worldwide spread on World Asthma Day May 5.

Avoiding exposure to common substances that trigger attacks is important. Secondhand smoke, allergens from dust mites, pets, pollen and molds are major irritants.

Many people don’t realize that exposure to open cooking fires can bring on asthma attacks. (© AP Images)

“Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries,” according to a White House announcement of a plan to better protect communities from climate change health impacts.

Local communities are the vanguard of protecting public health from climate change consequences, the White House says.  In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local health authorities to identify low-cost and creative adaptations to protect against climate change–related disease and injury.