ROGERSVILLE – Imagine what it would be like to breathe through a drinking straw or to feel like a fish that’s been taken out of water.

The 17 million people in the United States who suffer from asthma don’t have to imagine. Breathing problems are part of life for children and adults afflicted with the chronic condition.

“Some people refer to this region as the asthma capital of the world because of all of the flowering plants and shrubbery,” said Dr. Jackie Livesay, medical director of the emergency department at Hawkins County Memorial Hospital. “It’s probably even worse here in the summer because of all of those flowering plants and shrubbery.”

While asthma is a chronic disease, meaning that it never really goes away, it is highly treatable.

“Most asthmatics have various inhalers and other medications at their disposal to limit flare-ups,” Dr. Livesay said. “Early treatment is the key to control this condition. Avoidance of specific triggers is very important as well.”

Asthma triggers include pollen, dust, animal dander, molds and some types of foods. Infections, smoking, stress and, for some sufferers, physical exertion can bring on asthma attacks, as well.

“There are many causes of asthma attacks, and certain ‘triggers’ can precipitate an asthma attack within minutes of exposure,” Dr. Livesay said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading health organizations, incidents of asthma are on the rise. Asthma is already the leading cause of school absenteeism related to chronic illness among children. The CDC estimates that, in 2000, 14 million school days were missed because of asthma.

“If you think you have symptoms of asthma, it is recommended that you see your doctor,” Dr. Livesay said.

Common symptoms include trouble breathing, wheezing, a feeling of tightness in the chest and a chronic dry cough. More worrisome symptoms include the inability to lie flat, as well as seeing the muscles between the ribs contract with each breath.


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