Asthma and Mortality
A few weeks back, a beloved family member died (but NOT from asthma). For anyone that has planned a funeral for a loved one, you know all the work that goes into picking out a casket, flowers, headstone, etc. You may need to meet with the mortuary a couple of time to make sure you have everything ready for the funeral.
During one of our meetings with the funeral director, I asked if they have ever had to help plan funerals for people that die from asthma. His response? “Oh yeah, we have had many over the years.” I wondered, how many people die in my state each year from asthma. I know that 10 people die from asthma every day in the U.S
If you live in the U.S., where does your state rank?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists mortality (death rates) for each state (click on the mortality tab). Rates are based on deaths per million. So, a state with a larger population will most likely have more deaths. But the top 5 states with the highest death rates (deaths per million) are Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Arkansas and Arizona.
Some of you reading this now may have lost of a friend or family member due to asthma. And my heart aches for you.
When my three children were little, they were hospitalized many times for asthma, and my son ended up in ICU twice with the "crash cart" outside his room. The cart had all of the supplies needed to save his life if he quit breathing. My biggest fear is that he wouldn't make it through the night. I still have nightmares about that.
What are the risk factors for death from asthma?
The website Very Well says risk factors are1:
- Previous history of a near-fatal asthma event
- Recent poorly controlled asthma with increased shortness of breath, nocturnal awakenings, and rescue inhaler use
- Prior severe asthma exacerbation where you were intubated or admitted to an intensive care unit.
- Two or more asthma-related hospital admissions or three or more visits to the emergency room for asthma
- Using two or more canisters of your short-acting bronchodilator like albuterol in a month
- If you have trouble identifying when your asthma symptoms are worsening or you are having an asthma attack
- Being poor and from the inner city
- Substance abuse
- Significant psychiatric disease
- Other significant medical problems like a heart attack and other lung diseases
Very Well also says1:
"Only a third of asthma deaths occur in the hospital, which means many asthma patients who die are either not seeking care or are not being hospitalized with their worsening asthma."
So, how do you avoid becoming a statistic?
Very Well says that you need to know when to go for medical help, realize that shortness of breath needs attention, don't assume that since you treated your last severe asthma attack that you will be okay with this one. Don't rely on just an Albuterol inhaler, and realize that asthma can be fatal.
They also suggest1:
- Know that you are at risk
- Know your asthma action plan
- Make sure you understand your asthma action plan
- Use your asthma action plan
- Use your peak flow meter regularly
- Do not delay seeking emergency care if your symptoms worsen
- Tell your asthma care provider that you are at increased risk of an asthma-related death
- Make sure you can effectively communicate with an asthma care provider
I can't stress how important it is to talk to your doctor on a regular basis! Make sure you are on the right medicine for your asthma. And have a plan for what to do if your asthma gets worse (that should be on your asthma action plan.)
Know where the closest Urgent Care is near you. And the nearest hospital.
It breaks my heart every time I read a story of how someone died from asthma. I am doing everything I can to help others learn about asthma - even changing careers so I can work full time to educate people with asthma.
What are you doing to take care of your asthma? Do you have a plan with your doctor for what to do if you get worse?
Have you ever gotten "moon face" as a side effect of prednisone?