Asthma 101: A conversation with Dr. Ketura Talbot

By Kristy Bleizeffer Oct 22, 2014

With the start of fall sports, outside practice sessions and a change in temperature, this time of year can be a trigger for people with asthma. The Pulse sat down with Dr. Ketura Talbot, a family practice physician at Mesa Primary Care, to talk about an increasingly prevalent disease affecting both children and adults.

What is asthma and who does it most affect?
Asthma is an inflammation of the lungs, causing a narrowing or tightening of your airways. Common symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness or feeling like it’s hard to breathe. It can be brought on by cold air, exercise, allergies, stress or many other triggers.

Asthma affects children and adults. There is a higher incidence in people under the age of 18, but it often a life-long condition.

We’ve heard that the incidents of asthma are increasing. Is this true?
Yes, there has been an increase in asthma in the past few years. Thirty years ago, one in about every 20 people were diagnosed with asthma. Now it’s one in 10 children and one in 12 adults in the United States. We see that increase here in Wyoming as well.

What should parents watch for if they suspect their child has asthma?
Asthma typically causes a non-productive cough (what is often called a dry cough), shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Early signs in children include trouble keeping up with peers on the playground, getting winded easily, waking up at night coughing, increased number of colds or respiratory infections compared to classmates or family members. If you are concerned about it, you should be evaluated by a physician. We can help determine if further testing is needed.

Why do fall and winter seem to make asthma worse in some patients?
There are usually certain triggers that will cause patients to have an asthma attack. These can include allergies (pollen, dander and other environmental factors), tobacco smoke, mold, exercise, cold air. This is the time of year when kids are heading back to school, getting into sports, changing their activities and their environmental exposures. The weather turns colder and will affect many people.

How serious is an asthma diagnosis?
Asthma is a serious concern.  For some people it can lead to hospitalization, disability and can be fatal. But with good care it can be controlled, and most patients can lead a normal life.

I recommend my patients have an asthma action plan. This is something they can work out with their doctor before having an asthma attack. It includes a list of medications, your plan for managing your asthma long term and how you would handle an asthma attack. It helps patients know what to do and when to seek further help.

This is especially important for children with asthma. Their caregivers – schools, teachers, babysitters, relatives, etc. – need a copy of the plan in case they suffer an attack when their parents aren’t around.
You should develop this plan with your doctor, but there are many examples on the internet to get you started.

If an asthma patient is having difficulty, when should they seek medical help?
The goal of asthma care is to control symptoms and minimize asthma attacks.  If you or your child are having trouble several times a week, or needing to use your rescue inhaler more than two to three times a week, I recommend you see your physician.

If you are having trouble breathing, notice blue changes by your mouth or fingers, or are not improving with your home medications, you should seek immediate medical help.

Ketura Talbot M.D.

Dr. Talbot is a board-certified family physician at Mesa Primary Care. She attended medical school through the WWAMI program (an acronym for participating states – Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). She enjoys camping and getting outdoors, and is exploring photography and martial arts.