By Adem Lewis / in , , , /


♪ Presentation
of this  Viewfinder episode is locally supported
by UC Davis Health System. ♪ Breathless! Could you imagine
not being able to breathe? I’m Jennifer Whitney. For the next half hour,
we’ll explore the growing epidemic
of asthma here in the valley. The problem is year round. Our summers may be dreamy,
but poor air quality coupled with hot temperatures
can turn those months into a nightmare
for a person who has asthma. Fall brings beautiful colors
and cooler weather. The changing season
also creates moisture and dampness. Adults and children
are forced to stay indoors a little more. And with that
sometimes comes exposure to molds and dust mites. Both can be serious triggers
for asthma sufferers. Asthma threatens
a person’s ability to take in oxygen. Winter escorts
in the wind, the rain, and the flu. Things that may not cause
serious problems for the rest of us
can provoke airways to constrict
in people with asthma making it difficult to breathe. Risk factors can include
something as simple as cold air. As days grow longer
and temperatures warm up, grasses are greening
and flowers are blooming. But with that beauty
comes a price. Spring is by far
the worst season of the year for allergies. And allergies can wreak havoc
for a person who has asthma
causing wheezing, shortness of breath,
and rapid heartbeat. The symptoms can be frightening,
devastating, and even life threatening. I’ve suffered from pneumonia
three or four times. Nineteen year old
Jameson Mitchell has suffered from asthma
all of his life. There’s a lot of difficulty
breathing. An asthma attack
is really a bad thing. It’s sometimes
you can’t breathe. (coughing) For Jameson
the doctor’s office is a familiar place. My son has
a lifelong challenge. It’s called asthma. He’s been dealing with it since
he was a little boy. He has difficulty breathing. Certain times of the year,
he has certain difficulty because of pollen
or things that he’s allergic to. When he was a little boy,
I stayed home with him for a month
because he had pneumonia. This was Jameson 11 years ago. My lungs get clogged. It gets hard to breathe
out of your mouth and your nose. I had to take him
into the doctor and give him nebulizer,
treatments, medication. It was a process. It was good I was there
because he needed an around-the-clock caretaker. Tests early on
showed Jameson was highly allergic
to grasses, trees, and pollen. In this valley
allergies are one of the most common causes of asthma. For years Jameson
took allergy shots. I’ve had my tonsils
and adenoids taken out and my ears tubed as well. How are you today? Not so good. What’s going on? Dr. Ron Sockolov
is Jameson’s primary care physician. I think he’s picked up a virus. He’s being treated
for a bacterial infection. So I think
one of the two organisms has invaded his bronchial tubes
and gotten into his lungs and triggered
a little level of his asthma that caused his wheezing
and fever. For many asthmatics,
viral or bacterial infections are other big triggers. I feel that it’s not fair
that he has to put up with this. That he has
this lifelong problem. I don’t know
how this is going to affect him as he gets older. He caught a little virus. He’s on heavy duty antibiotics,
he’s beeen sick over a week, and it could have
turned into pneumonia. And he’s coughing up blood. I caught a little virus,
the same virus last week, I got a little headache,
and I got over it. He’s not able to do that. It’s not fair. I’m really concerned
about my asthmatic population. So one of the first things
I’d like them to do is in the fall get a flu shot. For years
Jameson saw Pediatric Pulmonologist
and Allergist Dr. Bradley Chipps. Children with asthma
will have long periods where they are asymptomatic. But during the time of the year
when viral infections are prevalent,
we know that they are at higher risk for exacerbation. Asthma is on the rise
and considered an epidemic. It is a long term
health condition that causes air passages
in the lungs to become inflamed,
narrowed, (and) even blocked. Patients say
it’s like breathing through a straw. Symptoms include coughing,
chest tightness, wheezing,
shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. And though rare,
it can be deadly. The valley we live in
is like a bowl that collects pollutants
and allergens that just sit. While the valley is beautiful,
the air we breathe isn’t always good for us. Pollution also causes asthma. So we know asthma
is triggered by dirty air, and allergens
and viral infections. Eighty percent of asthma
starts before five years of age and invariably starts
with viral infections that start early. But what causes asthma
to become persistent is the development of allergy. One tries to make a decision
about allergy based on a patient’s history….   ….he’ll cough for a day,
  and the next day,   he won’t cough….. ….and the correlation
between exposure to known allergens
and increase in symptoms. That can be verified
by doing either blood tests or skin tests
which are done in the office.   What a brave boy! Little Camden and Carson
are being skin tested for allergies. An allergen extract
is applied to a tiny scratch or prick of the skin. The red bumps are an indication
of allergic reactions. If patients did not
develop an allergy before the age of 8,
they have a 90 percent chance of outgrowing
their viral induced wheezing by the time
they reached puberty. It is a very important concept
to keep in mind and also re-enforces
why early allergy evaluation is important in treatment
and prognosticating about what is going to happen.   Sarah? Allergy shots,
also called immunotherapy, are sometimes prescribed
to help increase a person’s tolerance
to substances that cause allergy symptoms. Initially, shots are given
once or twice a week for several months. Eighty year old
Marilyn Bingham relies on a variety
of medications including inhalers
to keep her asthma in check. I’ve had asthma since I was 10. When I went through puberty,
I got it bad. Most Americans that have asthma
in the United States they were first first recognized
to have this condition as children. And then they grow up
and become adults. But they never ever
really get rid of it. Because as we know,
asthma is a genetic disorder. In kids
it’s much more prevalent in boys than girls:
about two to one. But in teenage years,
it becomes much more prevalent in girls. In our severe asthma clinic,
it’s 80 percent women.   Well, I’ve been under control
 with my asthma of many years…. Doctors say hormonal influences
play a role in asthma, and that it’s an area
of active research. Meanwhile,
scientists have long known asthma is hereditary. A person with a parent
who has asthma is three to six times
more at risk. Other triggers
for asthma include tobacco smoke, cleaning products, cold air, viral infections, air pollution, and allergens
as we’ve already mentioned. And add to the list, heartburn. Yes,  heartburn. In fact,
heartburn can be the culprit in difficult-to-treat cases
of asthma. Though not the case
for Marilyn, she’s had her own challenges
with asthma from the time
she was a young woman. Easy when you don’t have it. Terrible when you do. You lose all your
strength and energy and your love of life
if you’re struggling to get a breath. There are an array of
treatments, drug treatments. But more important
than drug treatment is asthma education.   Make sure you opens
  the thumb notch   which opens
  the mouthpiece here…. We know the immune system
in asthma is actually in overdrive. It is very, very active. In fact,
it’s creating antibodies against allergens. So there is
a particular antibody which is very elevated
in many patients that have allergic
or extrinsic asthma.   ….big breath in,
  blast it out  as hard and fast as you can…. In the doctor’s office,
Marilyn’s lung function is measured,
and she’s given instructions on how to properly use
her medications. While I am trying to bring out
the therapeutic benefit for a particular patient,
every patient is different. Seeing a doctor
and controlling asthma prevents emergency room visits
and hospitalizations. That’s the goal. But access to health care
is sometimes a barrier. In this country
we have learned that health
is really related to wealth. And the wealthier you are,
actually the healthier you are, and the more likely you are
to have a longer life span. Sacramento County Health Officer
Dr. Glennah Trochet says there’s no question
poverty and asthma are linked. Children in minority groups
who tend to be in poverty more often tend to have
higher incidence of asthma and unfortunately
also higher incidence of emergency room visits
and hospitalizations for asthma. Anna Cornelius
is barely getting by financially. I have a job
that pays only for room and board, transitional living. I am the program director here,
but it’s only room and board. Anna does not have
health insurance, but she does have children. Twins, I have twins:
Serenity and Destiny. They’re five years old,
and they both have asthma. The girls are being raised
by their mom and grandmother Ruby. It’s hard for Destiny
sometime when she get sick to breathe. She’s going to wheeze like,
like a sound. (huff) And this time she didn’t do it. Had a bad fever. One time she had it so bad,
I drove her to the hospital. I got in the car
and started driving. Didn’t think
she was going to make it. But I just kept driving. African American children,
their rate of hospitalization is 250 percent more higher. So that’s two and a half times
than that of other children. And their death rate
from asthma is 500 percent higher. These are the statistics
from the US Department of Health and Human Services,
Office of Minority Health. Poverty,
lack of education, and poor access to health care
are a big part of the problem. I would love to be
better educated to the things that would prevent
asthma attacks. Educate me. Educate me! That’s exactly what
Azziza Davis-Goines is trying to do. She heads up
the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce. There is such a disparity
in health care. You will find
that these children with asthma are living
in deplorable conditions. There is mold in the houses,
there’s smoking in the houses, there’s particles in the air,
horrible carpeting…. Homes tend to have triggers
such as dust mites, and that is no reflection
on housekeeping practices. If you live in an urban area,
your house is going to have dust mites. It’s also going to have
cock roaches. And these are definite
environmental triggers for susceptible people
for asthma and asthma attacks.   As pretty
  as these things are,   they’re probably full
  of dust mites   and not a good thing
  for the girls. Stuffed animals are great places
for dust mites to hide. Washing all blankets
and sheets every week will minimize dust mites. And keeping your kitchen
as clean as you possibly can, not leaving food out,
can minimize the amount of cock roaches that might come. You may never see them,
but they are there. While Mom Anna
does not smoke inside or around her children,
she has yet to kick the habit
although she’s working on it. I stopped smoking. The smell of a cigarette
would bother me. But when I get a little stressed
or overwhelmed, I’ll take a drag
off a cigarette. Anna takes her girls
to a county clinic where their asthma
was recently diagnosed. But she’s worried
about the future. Clinics are closing
all over this place like crazy. The safety nets
that were available for these children
no longer exists in many of these neighborhoods. It’s a very, very sad situation,
deplorable. From 19 year old
Jameson Mitchell to 80 year old
Marilyn Bingham to five year old twins
Destiny and Serenity, asthma does not discriminate. What you do
is you don’t give up. You keep on going. You don’t give up. Persistence pays off. Sacramento swimmer
and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist
Debbie Meyer can attest to that. She also has asthma. These are the gold medals
I won in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City
for the 200…400… and 800 freestyle. So, lots of memories. Lots of hard work. Lots of dedication
and determination   and desire. Swimming remains
her life passion, and she now runs a swim school
in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento. My asthma is hereditary. And unfortunately,
my son picked it up from me. And I picked it up
from my mom and dad. Swimming, I think,
is one of the best sports anybody can do. And I think it is
because, mainly because, of the water. When your lungs
are in the water, it equalizes pressure
in the lungs. Many people who exercise
do notice asthma symptoms. When they study elite
athletes, Olympic athletes for example, they
(depending on the tests they use to diagnose asthma)
they report prevalence rates up to thirty,
thirty five percent. They think the prevalent
irritants for athletes is breathing in dry cold air
through their mouth. And if it’s a bad air day,
you know, use common sense. You don’t go outside
and exercise. Even healthy people
don’t do that or shouldn’t do that. Debbie’s Gold Medals
are an inspiration to everyone who sees
and touches them. It was three wonderful moments. And I think the best moment
out of the three was after I won
the 800 meter freestyle. I got off the block,
and I went over, and I gave the medal to Sherm,
my coach. Debbie is speaking
of long-time Sacramento Olympic Coach Sherm Chavor. She says he helped her
tackle asthma and become a winner. In turn,
that wisdom she generously shares
with others. Don’t give up. Use your medication. If they say use your medication,
use your medication. Just like I say to everybody:
set a goal and work to acheive it. Don’t give up. I lead an extraordinary life. Rick Keiser
also refuses to let asthma hold him back. It can be very frustrating. That’s probably a very good word
for the last couple of years: that’s frustrating. He has what’s called
exercise induced asthma. Exercise induced asthma
comes on when people are exerting
their heart or lungs. For me,
it came on when I was 12, 11 years old. Then I didn’t have any problems
until about two years ago. I’d use my inhaler occasionally. But two years ago,
I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Rick is an athlete
and avid cyclist. Over the past
couple of years, I’ve had probably ten to fifteen
different pneumonia’s. For me,
I’ve got lots of triggers. The valley essentially is
a big trigger for me. Cold weather seems to be
another one. And sometimes the extreme heat
can be a trigger for me. But usually
it’s people with colds and those kinds of things
that really bother me. Asthma and chronic illness
forced Rick to seek help. He was fortunate to find
Dr. Nick Kenyon who specializes
in exercise induced asthma.   Your asthma seems
  to be under control.   They have been
  for the most part. Patients who have
exercise induced asthma or exercise induced
bronchospasm, twitchy airwaves,
they’ll notice symptoms at the end of their exercise
or a few minutes after exercise
and have problems with cough,
and difficulty getting breath,
chest tightness which will go away
over a period of time. Exercise induced bronchospasm
is a condition that definitely benefits
from treatment.   Take a deep breath
  for me Rick if you can…. They are treated with inhalers. Usually it’s also important
that patients get evaluated by a doctor
to see if they have chronic asthma
be it related to allergies, virus, infections. Persistent or chronic asthma
should be treated with inhaled steroids
to prevent long term complications. For me,
exercise is one of my big outlets. Rick hops on his bike
and rides every chance he gets. It’s been
a tough couple of years. It gets to a point
where one day you can ride 50 miles on your bike. And the next day,
you can’t even take a shower. So it’s been a long time. Rick is now involved
in a clinical trial where we are looking for
a sub population of asthmatics that might benefit
from omega-three fatty acids. I’m on a fish oil study
with Dr. Kenyon at UC Davis. And I take five horse pills,
and I’m on a blind study. So I don’t know
if I’m on a placebo right now or I’m on fish oil. He’s quite the cyclist
and soccer player. I’m interested in seeing
which group of asthmatics might benefit
from a fairly simple intervention. Rick faithfully takes
his medications, fish oil included,
and is for the most part feeling pretty darn good
these days. I love going fast. The air we breathe,
what’s it doing to us? Researchers
are trying to figure that out. Studies are currently underway
to determine what kind of toll pollution
is taking on our lungs and asthma. Ground-level or bad ozone:
it’s a familiar term. But what does it mean? Ozone is a molecule
that is formed in the atmosphere by sunlight hitting smog
and creating out of the smog this very reactive molecule
called ozone. At ground level,
ozone is extremely harmful especially in summer months
when strong sun light and hot weather
combine and severely pollute the air we breathe. Again, we live in a valley
that collects pollution, pollen and other irritants
that can trigger asthma. Dr. Dallas Hyde
is the director of the California
National Primate Research Center and a professor at the UC Davis
School of Veterinary Medicine. My hope is that we can find
a therapeutic intervention to counter act
the development of ozone and allergens
early in life to spare children
the suffering that they go through
with asthma because
I believe that sets them up for a lifetime of suffering. I think what we are learning
is why asthma is increasing exponentially
in our population and certainly in California
where asthma is having a great toll on our children. The Primate Center
is located in Davis and is the only one
in all of California. There,
Dr. Hyde is doing ground breaking research
with rhesus monkeys to better understand
the relationship between air pollution,
allergies and asthma. Many of the animals
in our center that are out
in our breeding corrals, some of them will live
their entire lifespan there. And they will live up
to their early thirties. In the wild,
they seldom live past eighteen years of age. What we have found
is that simple ambient levels of ozone
that exceed the national air quality standards
is adequate to cause injury in the lung. And it is that injury
in the lung that sets up a situation
where an allergen has a greater access
to cause an immune response that then with time
becomes an allergic response in the airways
that damages the lung. Normally
when you think of asthma, you think of somtheing
that’s reversible. What we are seeing
with ozone exposure is that we are getting
abnormal airway growth in infants
that then does not appear to be reversible. So the air we breathe
is indeed playing a role. I think the future
is in our hands. And it is a great
responsibility. At Breathe California
of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, clean air and healthy lungs
are their number one focus. We have some of the worst
air quality in the nation. In fact every year,
if you look at the top ten worst,
some of the cities range up and down our valley. Certainly when it comes
to the link between air pollution and asthma,
we have a very challenging problem ahead of us. Just in Sacramento County,
the prevalence is 20 percent, where if you look at
the entire state, it’s 18 percent. Exhaust fumes, traffic, smoking, refineries, there’s no question:
air pollution is contributing
to the growing incidence of asthma in our valley. Staying indoors
during bad air days as much as possible
is important. The other thing you can do,
and I recommend for everybody to do,
is sign up for air alerts. You can get those through
the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. Go to  spare the air dot org
and sign up for those, and you will start
getting alerts. You can get those through your
emails, cell phone, to your pager. Education:
that’s the mission of Camp Arroyo in Livermore. It’s an asthma camp for kids
started by Al Brown. There are over 20 million people
in the United States who have asthma,
and lots of kids end up in the hospital. The camp is free of charge
and offers swimming, horseback riding, and marshmallow roasts. The goal of the camp
is to prevent emergency room visits
and hospital stays. The goal is to get the child
enough education to manage their asthma. It’s sort of
a preventative program.   Alright Jameson,
  how you doing today my bud?   I’m doing well, sir.   Alright,
  you want to get started? Learning to manage asthma
returns a person’s quality of life.   The martial arts
  always has been a noble art. Given that Jameson
is highly allergic to grasses, trees and pollen,
karate is an ideal art form for him
because it’s indoors. It’s about
personal development, growing oneself. Remember
just a few short weeks ago, Jameson was very sick
and struggling with his asthma. With medications and rest,
Jameson is once again training. Of course, we’re short winded
when we push ourselves. But it’s amazing to see
how strong he has become as far as his
respiratory system is. Jameson is learning
to conquer his asthma with the spirit
of a peaceful warrior. He is a very
self-disciplined person, but he comes to us
because he wants guidance, coaching,
and wants to improve himself. And I am very pleased
to have him as a student. We have hundreds
of beautiful days here in the valley. Don’t let a little pollen
or asthma steal the moment. Educate yourself. And if you or a family member
has asthma or you even suspect you might,
seek medical help. After all,
life is to be lived to the fullest! ♪ To order a DVD copy
of this program, call 888-814-3923
or visit kvie.org/viewfinder. Presentation
of this  Viewfinder episode is locally supported
by UC Davis Health System. ♪  


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