What Does Your Breathe Tell You About Asthma Control?

Everyone does it. We all exhale a little nitric oxide, it is a byproduct of human breathing, but if you have more than a particular level for adults and children in your exhaled breath, it means there’s probably inflammation (swelling) in your airways. That inflammation is the underlying process for asthma, where allergens and irritants cause the airways to swell and fill with mucus, making it hard to breathe. Elevated levels of exhaled nitric oxide can indicate whether a person is likely to be responsive to treatment, if the patient is using the correct inhaler technique, missing doses of medications or is exposed to high levels of allergens.

The test, fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), measures nitric oxide levels in your breath. Dr. McCormick has been using this test in his clinic for his asthma patients for the past 2-3 years. Obtaining a FeNO level is painless and simple to perform. The patient exhales 6-8 seconds into the breathing tube on the FeNO machine just as you would blow into a pulmonary function testing tube. After approximately a 1 minute, the machine calculates the results and they are available to Dr. McCormick.

Dr. McCormick feels obtaining the patient’s nitric oxide level provides him yet another piece of the puzzle to help with the patient’s asthma control:

  • Is the patient’s asthma controlled?
  • Is inflammation present in the airways?
  • What level of lung inflammation is present?
  • Are the prescribed medications working?
  • Is the patient’s inhaler technique correct?
  • Is the patient keeping up with their medications?
  • Would a medication change provide better control?
  • Is the patient exposed to high levels of allergens

Asthma is one of the world’s most common and costly diseases, affecting 8-10% of the population and costing over $50 billion annually in the US alone. Although there is no known cure for asthma, proper diagnosis and management are key to physicians effectively treating asthma patients.

Springing Into Allergies

It’s a beautiful day: blue skies, blooming trees, the grass is greening and the air smells fresh and fragrant with spring flowers. It’s the kind of day that makes most people want to go outdoors to enjoy the season.

If you are the 1 in five Americans (55 million people) who have “hay fever,” the onset of spring brings symptoms of sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and itchiness in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes and ears. Allergic rhinitis, another term for hay fever, is triggered by “allergens,” substances that initiate the allergic response. Outdoor allergens would include grass, tree and weed pollens as well as mold spores. Allergic rhinitis is also triggered by common indoor allergens, such as animal dander, indoor mold, cockroaches and dust mites. More

Childhood Asthma

Childhood asthma has become more widespread in recent decades. As the most common chronic illness in children, childhood asthma causes more missed school days and places more limits on activity than does any other disease in the United States. Childhood asthma and adult asthma have the same underlying cause – inflammation (swelling) of the airways. Approximately 75% of children with asthma have allergies that trigger this inflammation. This swelling causes the asthmatic patient’s airways to narrow, leading to signs and symptoms that range from minor coughing or wheezing to serious flare-ups that interfere with breathing.
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