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Release: August 1, 2000

UI asthma screening at Johnson County Fair assesses nearly 200 people

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More than 60 percent of the people who received a free asthma screening offered by University of Iowa Health Care allergists from July 24 to 26 at the Johnson County Fair were referred for further asthma diagnosis by a specialist. Allergists and staff from the Division of Allergy and Immunology in the UI department of internal medicine screened a total of 197 adults and children for asthma and found that 124 participants needed additional assessment.

The free screenings were conducted as part of a nationwide asthma screening program spearheaded by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to promote early detection and effective treatment of asthma.

"Asthma is a disease that affects an estimated 17 million Americans and kills at least 5,000 each year," said Iftikhar Hussain, M.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of internal medicine, who organized the local screening. "The screening program is an important step to help people realize they don't have to make lifestyle compromises if they have asthma. By informing people of the symptoms of asthma and advances in treatment, we can help improve the quality of their lives."

Asthma is characterized as a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that causes coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath. Its exact cause is unknown, but an asthma attack can be triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander, certain drugs and food additives, viral respiratory infections or physical exertion.

Among the people screened at the fair, Hussain noted a 10-year-old boy from rural Iowa who was active in sports, especially competitive soccer, as recently as two years ago but now watches television most of the time.

"On reviewing the boy's history, we found that he gradually cut off all his physical activity, as he was not able to keep up with his friends. Initially, he switched from soccer to baseball but then finally quit all active sports."

When the UI staff performed a breathing test on the boy, they found the results to be 76 percent of the predicted normal range for the boy's age and height. This helped explain why he adopted an inactive lifestyle.

"We need to pay special attention to this type of child as we can help them by initiating medical therapy at the right time, before they change their lifestyle," Hussain said.

For more information about asthma, call UI Allergy and Immunology Clinic B scheduling at (319) 356-8486.

The asthma screening was funded by an educational grant from Astra-Zeneca.


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