TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes and the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that in conjunction with Asthma Awareness Week, the County will premiere a variety of new informational brochures on asthma. Offered in English, Spanish, and Chinese, these brochures will be available at the West Windsor, Ewing, and Lawrence branches of the Mercer County Library System.
"I'm proud to join with the Freeholders once again to help our residents educate themselves about asthma," Hughes said. "Freeholder Liz Muoio has always been a passionate advocate for asthma awareness, and I was very grateful when she brought this issue to our attention back in 2005."
Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system that, when triggered, causes inflammation of the bronchioles-small "airways" in the lungs that allow air to pass into the alveoli, which diffuse oxygen to the bloodstream. When the bronchioles become swollen, breathing becomes difficult or even impossible; this manifestation of coughing, wheezing, chest pains, and shortness of breath is known as an "asthma attack." Attacks can be quelled through the use of inhaled bronchodilators such as Albuterol; patients who experience frequent attacks may require additional steroid therapy to reduce chronic swelling of the bronchioles.
Freeholder Elizabeth Maher Muoio noted that while having the right resources to treat an attack is essential, information and prevention are the most important weapons of all in the fight against asthma.
"As the parent of a child with asthma, I know firsthand how big a difference effective asthma management can make," she explained.
Muoio hopes that as researchers continue to pioneer new prophylactic therapies for asthma, the County can develop progressively better programs for educating the community about treatment options and prevention strategies.
Muoio's experience is not uncommon in the least: according the the United States Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 20 million people nationwide deal with asthma in some form. Roughly 5 million of these patients are children, and asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism among American students. In New Jersey, a statewide survey of school nurses revealed that between 10 and 13 percent of students cope with asthma.
Asthma education can make an especially positive impact for today's families. As the medical community's understanding of asthma has increased, so too have options for effective asthma management. Mast cell stabilizers such as cromolyn sodium that once required a prescription are now available for over-the-counter use, as are simple rescue inhalers for use in emergencies. Patients may also wish to consult with a physician about prescription therapies such as high-dose antihistamines, oral steroids, or montelukast sodium tablets. Successful prophylactic treatments for asthma depend on good availability of information and maintenance of an active dialogue between the patient and his or her physician of choice, usually an allergist or pulmonary specialist.
"When it comes to health care, knowledge is power," said the County Executive, "and asthma is a classic example of that maxim. With the right information and the right medications, individuals with asthma often manage to avoid attacks altogether."