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When Asthma Strikes Later in Life
Posted: 4/30/2018

Fort Walton Beach, Fla. – Asthma is typically considered a childhood lung disease, but it can develop at any age – even after age 50.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly 25 million adults and children in the United States are living with asthma – a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. However, about half of them don’t know that they have it. Asthma occurs when airways become inflamed. It can make breathing difficult and lead to an asthma attack, which can be mild, moderate or potentially life-threatening.

Dr. Michael Given, a Sacred Heart Medical Group pulmonologist in Fort Walton Beach, said adults can sometimes dismiss asthma symptoms, such as chronic coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, as some other health condition.

“Older adults can sometimes confuse asthma symptoms with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hiatal hernia or stomach problems,” Dr. Given said. “It’s important for adults to be aware of the possibility that they could have adult-onset asthma and to have a doctor check any respiratory symptoms to ensure they have a correct diagnosis.”

To confirm an asthma diagnosis, Dr. Given performs a pulmonary function test using spirometry, a device that measures how much and how fast air moves through the lungs. Results from this test also determines the course of treatment.

Although there’s no cure for adult-onset asthma, Dr. Given said being proactive can lessen severity of asthma attacks. He suggests:

1. Taking action – Work with your doctor to create a personal asthma action plan that describes your daily medication treatment, when to call your doctor, or when to go to the emergency room.

2. Keeping track of asthma triggers – Many common things, like pollen or air pollution, can set off or worsen asthma symptoms. Identifying these triggers can help you take steps to control many of them.

3. Getting your allergies under control – As with children, up to 50 percent of adult-onset asthma cases are associated with allergies, so managing and treating allergies should be a focal part of any treatment program.

To contact Dr. Given or another Sacred Heart Medical Group primary care physician about the symptoms and treatment for allergies, please call 850-416-2337.

About Ascension

Ascension ( is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. In FY2017, Ascension provided more than $1.8 billion in care of persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs. Ascension includes approximately 165,000 associates and 34,000 aligned providers. Ascension’s Healthcare Division operates more than 2,600 sites of care – including 153 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities – in 22 states and the District of Columbia, while its Solutions Division provides a variety of services and solutions including physician practice management, venture capital investing, investment management, biomedical engineering, facilities management, clinical care management, information services, risk management, and contracting through Ascension’s own group purchasing organization.

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