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San Antonio doctor helps make new asthma recommendations

Corticosteroid inhalers are now recommended for asthma attacks

SAN ANTONIO – Twenty-five million asthmatics in the U.S. can now take a collective sigh of relief after the National Institutes of Health came up with new recommendations to treat the chronic condition.

Dr. Edward Brooks, local division chief for Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Disease at UT Health San Antonio, was one of a small number of experts on the subject who examined several years’ worth of studies to come up with the new guidelines -- the first in 13 years.

Perhaps the most important recommendation simply because it will be the most utilized involve corticosteroid inhalers, which doctors have prescribed to be used daily as a long-term management tool. The inhalers are now being recommended to treat asthma attacks.

“There was quite a bit of research that if you use those medications as needed during a flare up of your asthma, they were quite effective,” Brooks said.

Also, for the first time ever, allergy shots also got a shot in the arm by the NIH experts, who now recommend them for allergy-related asthma. It’s long been suspected that the shots have a positive impact.

Two new devices are among the breakthrough recommendations.

One of the devices, a fractional exhaled nitric oxide test, helps with the proper diagnosis and treatment decisions that a doctor might face.

“It’s a little device that you blow into and it measures nitric oxide out of the lungs, and it correlates the elevation of nitric oxide correlates with the type of inflammation that we see in asthma,” Brooks said. Finding out this type of information can help guide therapy and determine if you’re on the right track.

The other device was a bit of a struggle among the experts, but the majority of them felt it needed to be recommended -- at least for adults.

The device, bronchial thermoplasty, is used for more invasive treatments.

“They put a tube down the throat and under anesthesia and then they warm up or heat these tubes, and it basically cooks the inflammation,” Brooks said. Much research has been done and it’s been shown to be beneficial.

There are several more recommendations from Brooks’s expert panel, including an examination of practices and products that aim to reduce the number of allergens in your house that trigger asthma attacks.

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