Asthma Awareness Month 2024

May 15, 2024

Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. About one out of every nine Mainers currently has asthma, compared to one in twelve nationally. Maine is one of the few states where asthma affects more adults than children.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. Asthma attacks are typically treated with prescribed “rescue” medications but are sometimes severe enough to require immediate care in a hospital emergency department or require a hospital stay.

Genetic, environmental, and occupational factors have been linked to developing asthma. Being exposed to things in the environment, like mold or dampness, some allergens such as dust mites, and secondhand tobacco smoke have been found to cause asthma. Air pollution and viral lung infection may also lead to asthma. Learn about services in Maine to help manage asthma.

Map of asthma emergency department visits by town

Monitoring Maine's Air Quality

During Maine’s warmest months between April and September air quality can sometimes be an issue for people with conditions like Asthma. During the longer days of summer ground level ozone, which requires sunlight to develop, has more time to form from the exhaust of vehicles, planes, trains, boats, lawn mowers and tractors, and large combustion sources like power plants. Ozone also travels to Maine in the air from other states.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection measures the state’s air pollution levels year-round and reports a daily Air Quality Index with guidance for people who are sensitive to poor air quality. Even during a ‘bad air day’ it is ok for most people to be outside and be active, so long as they do so early in the morning or late in the afternoon when ozone levels are less likely to impact those with lung conditions.

Controlling Asthma

While there is no cure for asthma, asthma can be controlled and managed. Here are some ways to decrease the risk of asthma attacks.

  • Know the symptoms. An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing.
  • See your doctor for regular check-ups and have a written asthma action plan.
  • Avoid things that make your asthma worse, like cigarette smoke, dust, perfumes, or furry animals.
  • Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you.
  • Know the difference between your quick-relief and long-term control inhaler, and when to use each.

People who successfully manage their asthma have fewer symptoms, sleep better, are more reliable at work and school, can take part in all physical activities, and avoid major asthma attacks that require a hospital visit. Access resources from the Maine Asthma Program to help manage asthma.

Bar chart of asthma emergency department visits

Maine Asthma Data

The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Maine Tracking Network uses data collected by hospitals to track asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations. Tracking asthma helps identify those at high risk for asthma, or with the highest burden of asthma, and provide communities and health care providers with the facts – including near real-time data – they need to develop and evaluate efforts to help prevent and control asthma.

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