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Group Urges Public to Take Free Asthma Tests in May

It's National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

SATURDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Free asthma screenings will be offered at more than 200 sites across the United States in May, which is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.

Adults and children with symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath are encouraged to take advantage of the screenings that will be conducted by allergists.

"Many people don't realize their breathing problem might be caused by asthma and simply put up with their symptoms, which could include a cough at night, colds that constantly go to the chest, shortness of breath during exercise or full-blown asthma attacks," Dr. John Winder, chairman of the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program, said in an American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) news release.

"Asthma is a serious disease, and the screening program gives patients a chance to meet with an allergist who can help them identify the source of their suffering and direct them to the next steps for treatment," Winder said.

During a screening, adults and older children complete a 20-question test, while children under age 15 complete a special test that allows them to answer questions about any breathing problems. There's another test available for parents of children up to 8 years of age.

Screening participants also take a lung function test and then meet with an allergist to determine if they require a thorough examination and diagnosis.

This is the 13th year for the program, which has screened more than 115,000 people and referred more than half of them for further diagnosis. The program is sponsored by the ACAAI.

More than 22 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, have asthma, which causes almost 4,000 deaths a year in the United States. The exact cause of asthma is unknown, but there are many treatments to control the disease. Asthma triggers include allergens such as pollen, dust and pet dander, certain drugs and food additives, respiratory infections and physical exertion, according to the news release.

More information

Here's where you can find a list of asthma screening locations.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, April 2009

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