THURSDAY, Dec. 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. National Institutes of Health has updated guidelines for treating asthma.
The update is the first in 13 years and takes into account new medications and other advances in asthma care. It focuses on treatment tailored for different age groups and severity of disease.
But better asthma care won't come from new guidelines alone, according to the American Lung Association's chief medical officer.
"Patients need to realize that open communication with their physician is the key to controlling asthma," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, who was not involved in creating the guidelines.
Depending on the severity of disease, there are many options for treating asthma. There are ways of increasing -- or decreasing -- therapy if needed, but Rizzo said doctors need to be aware of new approaches to treatment and be attuned to how their patients are feeling and coping with the condition.
Asthma causes the airways to narrow, making breathing difficult. An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, including nearly 6 million children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Without treatment, asthma can limit activities and cause flare-ups that can result in hospitalization or even death.
Dr. Michelle Cloutier is head of the National Asthma Education Prevention Program Expert Panel Working Group, which developed the new guidelines. At a briefing on Wednesday she told reporters that the guidelines focus on six areas:
"If someone is on inhaled corticosteroids and LAMAs already, and their asthma is not controlled, then adding a long-acting muscarinic antagonist offers some benefits," Cloutier said.
While Rizzo welcomed the new guidelines, he expressed concern that access to asthma treatment remains limited for many of those who need it most, including poor Blacks and Hispanics.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to avoid visiting their doctor's office, and many may not have access to online telemedicine appointments.
"We have to be really attuned to the fact that any improvement in asthma care has to also get rid of the inequities in the access to care that unfortunately exist," Rizzo said.
The new guidelines were published Dec. 3 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
For more on asthma, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Michelle Cloutier, MD, chair, National Asthma Education Prevention Program Expert Panel Working Group, and professor emerita, pediatrics and medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington; Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer, American Lung Association, Chicago; Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dec. 3, 2020