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Allergists hold free local asthma screenings

May 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Air pollution is one of the main reasons asthma is on the rise. The condition can kill suddenly if it's not diagnosed and properly managed. In an effort to save lives, allergists are holding free asthma screenings to help identify those at risk.A peak flow meter measures how much air a person can breathe out with force. The measurements are based on what's normal for a person's height and age. Anything short of a 100-percent may be cause for concern.

"If they fall under 80-percent of that predicted value then it means that they are in the yellow zone and there is a possibility that they are at risk of asthma," said one medical expert.

At Superior Grocery in Florence, volunteer allergists set up a testing station. Screenings are taking place in areas where residents have trouble getting access to care. Many have no idea they could have asthma.

"There's about a 3-fold increase in asthma deaths in the African American community compared to Caucasian community," said allergist Dr. Kenneth Kim.

Robin Gordon's son didn't score so well.

"He's got bronchitis and asthma and stuff like that," said Gordon. "It seems like it flares up a lot when he uses his medication."

In these communities doctors say they find many patients misusing or abusing Albuterol. Experts say if you use one canister of Albuterol a month that raises your risk of dying from asthma to 8-fold, two cannisters a month 20-fold.

"That's definitely a red flag," said Fred Cho, a pharmacist. "You should not be using that on an as needed basis."

"Patients don't realize that they are being under treated. Frequently, people will get some Albuterol, which is a quick acting inhaler," said Dr. Kim. "But the actual guidelines for asthma are if you are actually using your Albuterol more than twice a week then you really need to be on a controlled medicine."

Allergists hope these community screenings will save lungs and lives.

If people are identified as having possible asthma the next step is to schedule a formal check up with an allergist. Dr. Kim says many allergists take part in clinical trials where free medications are available. The free screenings are sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.