Office of the Director - May 14, 2010
The return of spring brings many pleasures, but allergies are not among them. Rising temperatures combine with budding trees and blooming flowers to send pollen counts sky-high. For many people, this means running noses, watering eyes, and difficulty breathing. Given these seasonal hallmarks, May has been named National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.
Allergies and asthma are intimately entwined. Of the more than 22 million people in the U.S.—including 6 million children—who have asthma up to three-quarters also have allergies, often to substances such as pollen, cat dander, dust mites, and cockroach antigen. The NHLBI supports studies that are examining how allergen exposure, genetics, and immune system development cause asthma.
NHLBI-supported research is also investigating other factors that influence the development of asthma or trigger attacks in people who have asthma. These include stress, respiratory infections, irritants, and pollutants such as cigarette smoke, paint fumes, perfumes, and household cleansers.
Scientific advances at the NIH have helped people who have asthma stay active at work, school, and play. Studies are underway at the NHLBI to find improved treatments as well as ways to prevent and cure asthma. The NHLBI's wide range of research programs encompasses:
- Epidemiologic research to study asthma in different populations
- Basic and genetic research to understand how the disease occurs and find targets for treatment
- Clinical research to evaluate new treatments
- Community-based research to create effective tools that help clinicians and patients manage asthma
The NHLBI launched its National Asthma Education and Prevention Program to translate basic research into clinical practice to help asthma patients. The program promotes clinical guidelines and provides educational materials for doctors and patients. A subprogram, the National Asthma Control Initiative, focuses on engaging communities—including patients, families, healthcare professionals, schools, and businesses—in improved asthma management.
The NHLBI remains committed to working with scientists, clinicians, and patients to improve the quality of life for people with allergies and asthma around the world. Our research programs provide the foundation for understanding the causes, improving treatments, and promoting better control of allergies and asthma.