Asthma (USA Today Health Reports: Diseases and Disorders)
By: Wendy Murphy
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2011
There are millions of people who suffer from asthma, “or bronchial asthma, as it is also called.” It’s one of the leading reasons that children end up in the emergency room and miss school frequently. Asthma, a chronic disease that “affects breathing,” cannot be cured, but can often be controlled given proper medical care and attention to things like diet, avoidance of triggers, and taking medications as directed. There are many reasons asthma can develop, but “allergies have become one of the prime causes of asthma.” In this book you’ll read about many other factors that contribute to the disease, including things like heredity. Although many want to attribute the disease solely to industrial pollutants, the word asthma, which means “panting,” was coined by the ancient Greeks.
You’ll get a crash course on how the lungs work, what happens during an asthma attack, and how long they last. If you have asthma, or know someone who does, you certainly know how scary attacks can be because “The degree to which people with asthma react to triggers can range from mild and infrequent to severe and daily.” Our immune system produces an immunoglobin called E, or IgE, which tends to be overabundant in asthmatics. This book will tell you all about IgE, allergic reactions, you’ll learn what effect global warming is having on asthma, food triggers, and other common allergy-based triggers. Did you know that the “wax on store-bought apples” can set off an attack? It’s amazing, but true.
If it is suspected that you may have asthma you will deal with either a pulmonologist or an allergist. You’ll learn about the four part workup which includes a medical history, physical exam, lab tests, and a series of allergy tests. When you read the sidebar, “Categories of Asthma,” you’ll find the information to be quite interesting. There are four types and the chart describes frequency of symptoms, the percentage of normal lung function, and effective treatment measures. You’ll learn about preventative measures, the two classes of medications you’ll use, and will receive a thorough grounding about what they are all about. There is information on immunotherapy, things that exacerbate your asthma, you’ll receive hints on how to minimize your problems, you’ll learn how to develop a support system, what you need for daily management (relievers and controllers), how to use an “Asthma Action Plan,” and you’ll learn about many other aspects of the disease that you can incorporate into your life. In a nut shell, “The goal is to get ahead of the disease by taking medications that prevent or greatly diminish the severity of asthma attacks long before they start.”
I was quite impressed at how well this book tackled the disease from the physiological aspects to the psychological impact of having to deal with asthma on a daily basis. There were many interesting little tidbits of information such as “lungs are least efficient around 4:00 A.M.” that may help people understand why they wake during the night unable to breath. There are conversational portraits of young people prefacing each chapter who also have the disease and they discuss how they handle certain aspects of their illness. This multi-faceted book can be read by a wide range of people, enabling them to understand and learn about how they or someone else can cope with asthma. The text is informative without being overly technical. There are numerous instructive sidebars scattered throughout the book, photographs, and pertinent USA TODAY articles. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. Additional downloadable educational resources are available on the publisher’s website.
Quill says: This is an excellent book for a young person to learn about asthma and how to cope with the disease.