Asthma and the Elderly

(1/5/18)- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that asthma afflicts an estimated 25 million people, about 8 percent of the population. It hits children even harder— about 10 percent of them have this respiratory malady that hinders breathing.


Asthma accounts for a quarter of all emergency room visits and more than 500,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. It kills about 3,500 Americans annually—most of these deaths are preventable with proper treatment—and contributes to another 7,000 deaths.

 (3/17/14)- GlaxoSmithKline PLC announced that two late-stage studies of its drug mepolizumab, which evaluated its treatment of severe asthma, had met its end-points, and that it was hoping to file for regulatory approval later this year.

In the first study, the drug reduced the frequency of attacks in patients with a severe an often crippling form of a disease called eosinophilic asthma. Patients taking the drug intravenously reduced the frequency of serious attacks by 47% compared with those taking a placebo.

Patients taking a higher dose of the drug by injection saw the rate of clinically significant attacks reduced by 53%.

A second study showed that patients taking the drug every four weeks were able to reduce their use of daily oral corticosteroids during weeks 20-24 of the study, compared with patients taking a placebo.

(7/10/13)- Thanks to Nicole Stoff for this one:

The Guide to Allergies and Asthma by Thanks again to Nicole Stoff for pointing out this site to us:

(12/20/08)- A FDA advisory panel voted against approval of Serevent and Foradil in connection with the usage of these drugs by asthma patients. Both of these drugs are approved for usage in connection with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, so even if the agency does adhere to the panel's recommendations, the drugs will remain on the market.

On the other hand the same panel did vote in favor of continued use of the drugs Advair and Symbicort in the battle against asthma. These two drugs are the most popularly used drugs by asthma sufferers to deal with the disease.

Both Serevent and Foradil must be used in combination with a steroid, but it was determined that almost half the users of these medications were not using them in combination with the steroid.

Dr. John A. Jenkins, a FDA official, warned that patients should consult their physician before stopping the usage of either Serevent or Foradil. He also strongly recommended that the makers of Advair and Symbicort continue safety studies of these medications, particularly in regards to their usage by young children.

(12/11/08)- Two officials, who work for the safety division of the Food and Drug Administration, wrote in an assessment on the agency's Web site that asthma sufferers of all ages should no longer use four of the popular asthma drugs. The four are Advair, Sybmicort, Serevent and Foradil.

A third drug-safety official of the agency wrote that Advair and Symbicort could be used by adults but that all four drugs should no longer be used by people age 17 and under.

Dr. Badrul A. Chowdhury, director of the division of pulmonary and allergy products at the FDA, cautioned in his own assessment that the risk of death associated with the drugs was small and that there was no need to ban the drugs.

The FDA will convene a panel fo experts this week to sort out the disagreement. The difficulty is caused by the fact that it is difficult to assess the cause of death since it is not clear cut if the inhalant or the asthma problem itself is the direct cause of the death of the inhaler.

Whatever the panel decides in their meeting, the drugs will almost certainly remain on the market because even the drug-safety officials who question the safety of the inhalants realize, that it would be worse if the products were entirely banned.

(12/23/99)- Much has been written lately about the severe outbreak of asthma in this country in the last 20 years. In 1998 asthma caused over 5,500 deaths in the United States alone. It is the 9th leading cause of hospitalization. It is estimated that over 17 million Americans suffer from asthma. This represents a 75% increase since 1980. Special emphasis has been given to the huge number of increases in asthma cases among the pre-teen age group, but little has been written about the fact that there has been a substantial increase in asthma cases among older adults also. The cause of this outbreak is unknown but we will explore herein some of the facts that are known about asthma in older individuals. Much of the information for this article comes from information gleaned from the NIH publications on asthma.

Asthma is a disease that affects the air passageway from the lungs. When the passageway becomes inflamed or swollen it becomes quite sensitive to various irritants. Smog, smoke, pollen or other pollutants are just a few of the various agents that cause the irritation to worsen. When the passageway becomes irritated it constricts thus making it extremely difficult for the asthma sufferer to get air to his/her lungs. This difficulty in breathing must be dealt with immediately. Other symptoms of an asthma attack are wheezing, coughing, a "heavy feeling" in the chest and a choking sensation.

As reported by the NIH "the normal effects of aging can make asthma harder to diagnose and treat". An area of concern for older adults who inhale steroid medicines over a long time may increase the chances of developing glaucoma. Over 70% of adults over 65 years of age are on some medication or other so the risk of harmful interaction is greater for these individuals.

The most widely used methodology to treat asthma has been through the usage of steroids. The long-term usage of steroids has many negative implications for the users. In adults, steroids can cause such serious side affects as osteoporosis, stomach bleeding, elevation of blood pressure and blood sugar levels, cataracts and weight gain.

The tests that are utilized in diagnosing asthma are as follows:

Once you have been diagnosed as suffering from asthma there are several steps that you should take in your battle with the disease. As an older individual suffering from the disease there are several added step that you should take. Have your physician write down your treatment plan so that you know exactly how much and when to take your medicine. Make sure you are able to read the written instructions. If you are taking an inhalant, it must be timed so that you are taking it when you are breathing in. If you are suffering from arthritis or if in general you suffer from lack of strength have your physician involved in teaching you how to use the inhalant.

Asthma attacks usually start slowly. No one is more familiar with your body than you are. When you know an attack is coming deal with it now. Don't wait until it is too late to prevent a serious attack.

The December 23rd 1999 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the early test results of a promising new genetically engineered asthma drug called rhuMAb-E25. The new drug blocks the release of the histamines that irritate, inflame and constrict the air passageway from the lungs. On the other hand steroids work by lowering the sensitivity to the allergens that bring on the asthma attack.

There are many preventive steps that you may undertake to avoid an asthma attack. When air quality levels are bad try to stay indoors. Try to avoid tobacco smoke as much as possible. If at all possible try to stay indoors as much as possible when the pollen count is high. See your doctor for regular check ups and let him/her know how you are doing with your asthma attacks. Tell the doctor if you are getting reactions to your asthma medication.

The following is a list of suggested sites by the NIH on this topic:

(7/10/14)- Thanks to our viewer Lisa here are some other helpful sites. We thank Lisa for her e-mail, but we could not find the link to

Lisa <>




to admin, me, elanaheathernahas.u.

Looks like there is a broken link on to You might also want to add some of these resources I found useful...


Thanks to our viewer Nicole Stoff, who pointed out to us that the site listed for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology listed below has merged into this site.



See also- Part II- Under-diagnosed Asthma in the Elderly

By Allan Rubin
updated January 5, 2018

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