Asthma and Your Health
Did you know that May 2, 2023 is World Asthma Day? May is also Asthma Awareness Month! Air Quality Awareness Week is a great time to learn what asthma is, how air quality affects people who have asthma, and how to manage environmental asthma triggers to improve quality of life.
On this page:
- Asthma Awareness Month
- Asthma and schools
- EPA Region 4 Spotlight
- Environmental Asthma Triggers
- EPA Region 9 Spotlight
- Healthy Heart
May is Asthma Awareness Month - a time to educate friends, family, and patients about asthma and promote awareness about how this serious, sometimes life-threatening, chronic respiratory disease can be controlled. During Asthma Awareness Month, EPA provides ready-to-use tools and resources for promoting asthma awareness in your community. Every year, Asthma Awareness Month also includes World Asthma Day on May 2nd.
How can I get involved?
- Raise asthma awareness on social media using any of the materials below to spread asthma awareness through your network and educate others! Use the hashtags #asthma, #AsthmaAwarenessMonth, and/or #WorldAsthmaDay, and tag @EPA and/or @EPAair. You can also download our sample social media document for messaging ideas: Asthma Awareness Month Sample Social Media
- Share any of the following asthma triggers infographics during Asthma Awareness Month and download and example asthma action plan.
- Join the Asthma Community Network and learn about how to finance in-home asthma care.
- Explore asthma resources from our federal partners to learn about efforts from other federal agencies, national nonprofit organizations, and EPA regional offices working to advance asthma care through outreach and education on environmental asthma triggers.
Asthma is a long-term disease that inflames and narrows your lungs' airways. Have you ever tried to breathe through a flat straw? It makes breathing harder and can be scary. That's how people who have asthma can feel when they are exposed to pollutants like dirty air, whether it's from ozone, wildfire smoke or other pollution.
Why is the air quality in schools important?
- Nearly 1 in 13 school-age children has asthma, which is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. There is substantial evidence that indoor environmental exposure to allergens (such as dust mites, pests, and molds) plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms. These allergens are common in schools. There is also evidence that exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses and other vehicles exacerbates asthma and allergies. Visit the Creating Healthy Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Schools website for more information.
What steps can schools take to improve indoor air quality?
- The IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan to improve indoor air problems at little- or no-cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff. The Action Kit provides best practices, industry guidelines, sample policies, and a sample IAQ management plan.
Awesome! Is there a way to access this information on-the-go?
- Yes! You can download the School IAQ Assessment Mobile App. The app is your "one-stop shop" for accessing EPA's comprehensive school IAQ management guidance and detailed walkthrough assessment checklists that address critical building-related environmental health issues, such as ventilation and environmental asthma triggers.
- Watch and Learn: View the School IAQ Assessment Mobile App Video.
Heidi L., Asthma and Environmental Justice Coordinator
Hometown: Stockbridge, GA
Interesting Hobbies: Traveling to beaches with clear water and attending sports games!
Bucket List Destination: Fiji
Favorite Snack Food: Apples and caramel dip
EPA Role: Asthma and Environmental Justice Coordinator
Primary Role Responsibilities and Projects: My focus is to decrease the number of asthmatics exposed to indoor environmental asthma triggers and to educate individuals on the environmental management of asthma. I also serve as a Technical Officer for Asthma/Indoor Air Quality Assistance Agreements by reviewing incoming applications, progress reports, and other technical documents to ensure compliance with both grant policies and related priority area objectives. Additionally, I am the Environmental Justice Coordinator for my division, and I coordinate the Air Quality Flag Program for the Region. I work closely with state and local agencies and non-profit organizations to achieve my EPA goals!
What are indoor environmental asthma triggers?
- Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, and indoor allergens and irritants play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. Triggers are things that can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack, or make asthma worse. Some examples of triggers are secondhand smoke, dust mites, and molds. If you have asthma, you may react to just one trigger or you may find that several things act as triggers. Be sure to work with a doctor to identify triggers and develop a treatment plan that includes ways to reduce exposures to your asthma triggers.
- To learn more about asthma triggers and how you can reduce your exposure to triggers, visit EPA's Gain Control webpage.
- Download this collection of asthma triggers infographics that provide a brief overview of different kinds of asthma triggers and ways to reduce exposure:
What is EPA's Burn Wise Program?
- The Burn Wise program promotes the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance. The more efficiently you burn wood (e.g., using an EPA-certified wood stove and dry, seasoned wood) the less smoke is created.
Why is burning the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance important?
- Smoke may smell good, but it's not good for you. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may:
- Cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis;
- Worsen and trigger asthma attacks, and;
- Trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially in people who are already at risk for these conditions.
- Download the Wood Smoke and Your Health poster today.
What resources should I explore before I burn?
- 2022 Health and Safety Awareness Toolkit
- The purpose of this toolkit is to encourage safe and efficient wood burning practices during the heating season.
- Burn Wise Best Practices Videos
- Videos cover: How to store firewood, how to get the best burn from your firewood, tips for a long-lasting burn, and more.
Alheli B., Indoor Air and Asthma Coordinator, Tribal Indoor Air Lead, and the Region 9 Indoor Environments Team Lead
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Interesting Hobbies: Photography, gardening, hiking, and caring for my mini zoo of pets and teenagers
Bucket List Destination: I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands someday to see the Galapagos tortoises in their habitat.
Favorite Snack Food: Apples with peanut butter
EPA Role: Indoor Air and Asthma Coordinator, Tribal Indoor Air Lead, and the Region 9 Indoor Environments Team Lead. Alheli is currently on detail with the Region 9 Tribal, Intergovernmental and Policy Division as the San Diego Field Office Director and Manager of the U.S.-Mexico Border Branch.
Primary Role Responsibilities and Projects: At EPA, we understand very well that outdoor air pollution affects human health and that it enters indoor spaces, where pollutants can be five to ten times higher than outdoors. While some EPA scientists and engineers work to make improvements to our outdoor air quality, I work with others at EPA, along with state, community, and federal partners, to share information on how to reduce exposures to indoor air pollutants where we live, learn, work and play. My focus is creating and sharing clear, practical, and culturally and linguistically appropriate tools and information on how to improve indoor air quality to reduce asthma disparities. To accomplish this, I work closely with EPA colleagues to create materials, provide informative presentations, manage small grants and projects, and create local and national partnerships to improve everyone's indoor environment. Working together we recently created several tools and resources including: a short fact sheet on Improving Your Indoor Environment (Spanish translation coming soon), information on Green Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting in Tagalog and Samoan languages; several webinars in Spanish on indoor air quality, videos of EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest reading the Coco Children's Book in English and Spanish, videos on Being Smoke Ready in English and Spanish and the Tribal Indoor Air Quality Training and Resource Directory.
Asthma is not the only adverse health outcome experienced from poor air quality exposure.
Did you know...
- Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the U.S.
- Air pollution can affect heart health and can trigger heart attacks and strokes that cause disability and death in those predisposed.
- One in three American adults has heart or blood vessel disease and is at a higher risk from air pollution.
EPA is raising awareness of heart disease and its link to air pollution and other environmental factors as a partner in Million Hearts, a national initiative to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Check out our Healthy Heart Toolkit and Research today!