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Asthma Doesn't Travel Well

Certain factors increase risk of an attack during vacations

MONDAY, Nov. 25, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- People with asthma are more likely to suffer an attack on vacation if they use their inhalers frequently before a trip or if they do strenuous hiking while on holiday, says an Israeli study in today's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

Tel Aviv University researchers studied 203 people with asthma, average age 24, who visited a travel clinic at the university in 1995.

Before their trips, the study participants were assessed for asthma exacerbation risk factors and did treadmill exercise and lung capacity tests. When the participants returned from their trips, they answered questions about their journeys and their asthma severity while traveling.

Of the 203 people in the study, 147 did high-altitude trekking and 88 had asthma attacks while traveling. Of those 88, 40 reported their asthma worsened during travel, 32 said they experienced their worst-ever asthma attack, and 11 reported a life-threatening asthma attack.

The researchers pinpointed two independent risk factors for asthma attack during the participants' travels. People who used their asthma inhaler at least three times a week before travel were more than three times as likely to suffer an asthma attack.

And people with asthma who went trekking were twice as likely to suffer an asthma attack. When both risk factors were combined, people in the study were more than five times as likely to have an asthma attack.

The authors write that both doctors and people with asthma need to be aware that asthma might become much worse during travel.

"Optimal asthma control before travel should be achieved by adequate use of medications in any patients with active disease. Travelers who have used inhaled beta-agonist bronchiodilators three times weekly or more during the year preceding travel should be advised to postpone travel to developing countries until better asthma control is achieved. Travel planning to avoid triggers for exacerbation, especially intensive exercise during trekking, is important," the authors write.

More Information

The American Lung Association has more about asthma.

SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, Nov. 25, 2002
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