MARCH 01, 2008

"Green" Inhalers Make Users See Red

Asthma patients are none too happy about having to switch from their older inhalers, which traditionally use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), to more environmentally conscious devices that are CFC-free but cost considerably more. The older devices are being phased out by manufacturers, and they are due to be banned nationwide by the end of the year. The new inhalers, which utilize hydrofluoroalkane, are just as effective as the older ones, according to pharmacists and physicians, but they are costlier than CFC inhalers. Right now, the prices of the new inhalers are higher because no generic versions are available, costing anywhere between $45 and $65. The ban on the CFC inhalers was in response to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international pact that called for the elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Patients also report having trouble working with the new inhalers, stating that they become clogged and require daily cleaning. Experts state that patients need to be encouraged to keep using them, and proper training and practice in their use can help make the transition easier.

Special Camp for Kids with Asthma

A recent study showed that children with asthma who attended a special camp for asthmatic children improved their management of the disease. About 120 asthma camps are in place across the country, sponsored by the American Lung Association, and almost 10,000 children attend them each year. Researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine looked at information on 1783 children who attended 24 different asthma camps. Camp attendees generally had moderate-to-severe asthma and came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

The researchers found that children who had attended camp the previous year experienced fewer trips to the emergency room and their doctor's office for asthma-related incidents, compared with those who had not attended camp before. Those who attended camp in the past also had better asthma-management skills and were more likely to use their medications to control their asthma. The findings were published in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

ACAAI Sponsors Free Screening Program

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) is sponsoring the 12th Annual Nationwide Asthma Screening Program to help adults and children discover if asthma is causing their breathing problems. Allergists will bring free screenings to 250 locations across the country during National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month in May. In past years, the program has screened more than 108,000 people for asthma and referred more than half of them for further diagnosis. A specialized effort is being made this year to reach those patients who may already know that they have asthma but are letting the disease limit their daily activities and/or days of work or school.

John Winder, MD, chair of the program, said in a statement, "The government guidelines emphasize that undiagnosed or inadequately treated asthma worsens the severity of the disease. The screening program gives patients who are still having breathing problems a chance to meet with an allergist, discuss their symptoms, and learn how they can feel better."

The free screenings will take place at shopping malls, civic centers, health fairs, and other accessible places nationwide. For more information, visit the Web site for the program at

Women on Farms More Susceptible to Asthma

Women who work on farms and come into contact with any number of widely used pesticides may be increasing their risk of developing allergic asthma. Their risk of nonallergic asthma does not increase, however. Researchers with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, found that women who use pesticides on farms were 50% more likely to develop allergic asthma. They added that women who grew up on farms seemed to be protected against allergic asthma, regardless of pesticide use. Findings were published in the January 1, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers studied the data on 25,814 women who worked on farms in North Carolina and Iowa who were already participating in the Agricultural Health Study. The women reported whether or not they had been diagnosed by a physician as having asthma, and they were divided according to allergic and nonallergic asthma status. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma in the United States. The women who had grown up on farms without pesticide exposure had the lowest risk of allergic asthma, compared with women who neither grew up on farms nor applied pesticides.

F A S T   F A C T : Although 68% of asthma patients report having the disease under control, 74% also say they would like to control it better.