Educating patients with asthma about how to manage the chronic respiratory condition and avoid exposure to irritants could improve the health of this growing group of Americans, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma prevalence increased 12.3% in the United States between 2001 and 2009, according to a study published May 6 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More than 24 million Americans had the disease in 2009. But nearly one in three has not been taught how to respond to an asthma attack, the study said. "The best thing for providers is to take time to explain to patients how to take care of the disease, how to use the medication prescribed and when to call [a physician]," said Hatice Zahran, MD, MPH, co-author of the study and a CDC epidemiologist. "Physicians should not just give [patients] a prescription and let them go. They should take time and explain to patients how they can manage their disease." The study authors recommend that doctors write an action plan for patients with asthma. The plan describes how patients should monitor their symptoms. It also details how they can avoid exposure to irritants, recognize worsening symptoms and know when to call their physician. Irritants that can exacerbate symptoms include tobacco smoke, mold, air pollution and pollen, the CDC said. Researchers examined asthma data from the 2001-2009 National Health Interview Survey. They also reviewed information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for 2001, 2005 and 2009. Individuals were considered to have asthma if a health professional had diagnosed them with the condition and if they had disease symptoms at the time of the survey. Researchers found that asthma prevalence in the U.S. climbed from 7.3% (20.3 million people) in 2001 to 8.2% (24.6 million individuals) in 2009. The disease is more common among children under 18 than in adults. Nearly one in 10 children has asthma compared with 7.7% of adults. Prevalence is particularly high among black youths; about one in six has the condition. "We don't know exactly why the rate is going up," said Ileana Arias, PhD, the CDC's principal deputy director. "But, importantly, we do know that there are measures individuals with asthma can take to control asthma symptoms." The full and original article can be found at: