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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008 12:26 am

Those mighty mites

More and more Springfieldians have asthma

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Dr. Glennon Paul has worked with Springfield asthma patients for 33 years, but even he admits that he doesn’t have all the answers. Asthma, a respiratory condition in which the airway constricts, becomes inflamed, or fills with excessive amounts of mucus, strikes people of different ages and for different reasons — and, as Paul says, new research constantly points in new directions. Researchers once suggested that parents should keep their homes clean and free of pet dander and dust to prevent their babies from getting asthma, but Paul says they’ve now found that people exposed to many different allergens as babies are less likely to have the disease. “If you’re around animals, especially dogs and cats, your chances of developing asthma are less,” he says. “That’s why farm kids have less asthma than city kids.”
Research also once showed that ragweed was the No. 1 allergenic cause of asthma, Paul says, but now dust mites are believed to be the culprit. Just 1 gram of dust contains 40,000 to 50,000 dust mites, which even come in two species — American and European. Paul says these can be contained with the use of cleansing sprays and air filters, which also rid the home of pet dander.
Paul, one of seven doctors with Central Illinois Allergy and Respiratory Services, says he sees more asthma patients now than ever before but also says he is unsure why the numbers have grown. He says that asthma may be genetic, passing through families, or a result of increasing numbers of dust mites and deteriorating housing conditions. And contrary to popular belief, Paul says, he finds asthma in adults as well as in children. “Sometimes people don’t get asthma until they’re 80,” he says. “Ten percent of the population will have asthma sometime in their lives.”
Known asthma symptoms include cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath, usually worsened by colds, weather changes, irritating chemicals, or allergens. Once a diagnosis of asthma has been made, the affected person most often uses inhaled steroids to prevent and treat inflammation and attacks. Paul says that research is ongoing, especially in the development of additional drugs that will better treat the inflammation that occurs as an effect of asthma.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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