Asthma a growing issue in Hawaii, doctors say

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 125,000 adults and children in Hawaii suffer from asthma. The effects can be debilitating - causing trips to the E.R. and absenteeism at work and school. This month, doctors are advising people to get checked if they've had prolonged bouts of wheezing or coughing.

Five year old Joshua Rollins first started having breathing problems at 18 months.

"We ended up going into the doctor every 3 to 6 weeks to have him checked out for various things," explains Joshua's mother, Kacey Rollins.

They discovered it was asthma. Now, Joshua has two inhalers. He describes how many times he uses his blue one. "Five breaths. And then, for the orange one, one breath."

31,000 children in Hawaii, just like Joshua, suffer from asthma in Hawaii. The American Lung Association says it's the leading cause of emergency room visits and missed school days. And for adult patients, the problem has gotten worse in the last decade. In 2000, about 64,000 island adults had asthma.  That number jumped to almost 94,000 - almost 9.5% of the population - in 2010.

"A lot of it has to do with our year-round growing season, so there's no seasonality to our pollen, and we have other major allergic triggers like dust mites and cockroaches and mold - which are year-round," says Honolulu allergist Dr. Jeffrey Kam

County by county, Hawaii has the most adult asthma sufferers at 12% - ossibly because of vog - followed by Maui, Honolulu, and Kauai. For people who endure coughing, sneezing, or wheezing of two weeks or more, Kam suggests getting a spirometry breathing test and advice from your doctor. "It's important to identify your trigger, either by skin testing or blood testing," he says.

If you've had an attack, you know. Asthma is nothing to sneeze at. The local ALA says asthma costs Hawaii's economy about $10.5 million in E.R. visits and more than $24 million in hospitalizations.

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