Much has been made about the rising number of children with asthma. It’s estimated almost 10% of the juvenile population has it, but at 8%, grown-ups aren’t far behind.
“And it turns out to be a source of morbidity to them as well, because of days missed from work or symptoms that slow them down,” says Dr. Sagar Naik, pulmonologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
There could be several reasons for the adult uptick, including occupation. Research finds one in six cases of adult asthma may be linked to the workplace.
“Just about any inhalational substance that you encounter due to work could potentially be a trigger for asthma,” says Dr. Naik.
The most offensive environments contain exposure to cleaning agents, chemicals or small particles.
“There’s things like meat packers asthma from the plastic that’s used to wrap meat. There is popcorn-makers asthma, folks who are allergic to the butter in popcorn. Folks can be allergic to rubbing alcohol, they can be allergic to perfume, they can be allergic to air fresheners, to carpet cleaner, to mold,” says Dr. Naik.
Hair salons and print shops can also be breeding grounds. And people who had asthma as a child may be predisposed later on.
“The thought is, if they demonstrated that they have the ability to react to an allergic in terms of lung symptoms, that tendency is going to stay with them for their life,” says Dr. Naik.
One concern is that many adults aren’t getting proper treatment. A reason being they are more likely to chalk their symptoms up to chronic bronchitis or allergies rather than asthma. Even those who do get a diagnosis don’t always realize they could benefit from help.
“We teach them how to manage their upper airways. A lot of adults have sinus problems so we teach them how to keep that clear,” says Teresa Summe, asthma management coordinator with Lee Memorial Health System.
Teresa Summe went from working with kids in asthma management to counseling adults too.
“With adults usually there’s a lot more illnesses that they’ve acquired over the years. They also usually have a lot more medications, so we really work to get the entire picture of this asthmatic,” says Summe.
Learning to managing symptoms and medications- none of which are child’s play.