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'It's every other patient I'm seeing right now': Doctors say asthma rates are on the rise

Annie Young
Posted at 8:34 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 13:26:16-04

Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways narrow and swell making breathing difficult.

For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. But for others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening situation.

Steven Reifman, 73, was being examined by Dr. Kathleen Dass — and the grandfather of 2 has battled with asthma since he was 8 years old.

"When you can’t breathe and you are thinking about your next breath, it takes a tremendous psychological effort, it really does... like, 'oh God, I got to breathe again,'" said Steven.

Carrying a rescue inhaler all the time and on bad days, visiting the emergency room would be the norm for Steven, and even though all that has changed since he started treatment with Dr. Dass, Steven hopes that his journey can motivate others.

"You really do worry about the ability to take your next breath and it's extremely distressing that something so fundamental, it would be like worrying about if your heart was going to beat next," said Steven.

Dr. Dass says asthma is incredibly common, "it's every other patient I'm seeing right now." Dr. Dass says studies also show that asthma, in general, tends to affect more females than males.

"People are not able to go to school, they are not able to do their basic activities of daily living, they're not able to go to work, it affects every aspect, it also affects their sleep," said Dr. Dass.

Dr. Steve McGraw from Ascension Providence Hospital says viruses, fluctuations in temperature — all those combined with air pollution can make it challenging.

"We have really big industrial sites, that make a lot of the material that makes our air quality worse. How close are they to where people live? Can we do things to mitigate what comes out of their smokestacks?" said Dr. McGraw.

The American Lung Association’s recent State of the Air report reveals that Detroit’s particle pollution, which directly impacts air quality, recorded more unhealthy days with daily spikes in 2021 and slightly worsened compared to the years prior.

The Michigan Department of Health said, “they are working to improve indoor air quality in Detroit childcare facilities, provide in-home asthma education in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and develop policies to reduce bus and car idling on school property as well as promoting electrification of school buses."

On a personal level, both doctors recommend not smoking around asthmatic patients, keeping homes free of insects like cockroaches, and getting an allergy test whenever possible as most allergies could trigger an asthmatic event.


This story was originally published by WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan.