Phone Counseling Helps Asthmatic Women Reduce Symptoms

Women who have asthma and received education and phone counseling about how to manage the disease experienced fewer symptoms, improved their quality of life, and made fewer unscheduled doctor visits, according to a study conducted by the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan.

The study looked at 808 asthma patients 18 or older who had experienced symptoms in the previous year. All received care at participating UM clinics and had no extenuating medical or mental conditions. Women who received phone counseling (the intervention group) had 28 percent fewer nighttime symptoms, which are often considered a sign of more serious asthma, compared with a 1 percent decrease among women in the control group. The intervention group had 49 percent fewer unscheduled doctor visits and 41 percent fewer scheduled doctor visits compared to the control group's respective decreases of 30 percent and 34 percent.

The study's counseling program is the first to systematically help women observe whether their symptoms worsen at certain times (at points during their menstrual cycle, during sexual activity, with the use of contraceptives or estrogen replacement therapy, when cleaning the house, caring for family pets, or using cosmetics or fragrances).

"Women are twice as likely to have asthma [as] men and almost always experience greater problems with the disease," said Noreen Clark, the center's director. "Asthma symptoms may worsen for as many as 30 percent to 40 percent of women during their menstrual cycle, which is why this revolutionary study focused on recognizing the role of sex and gender in the disease. This research suggests that if women receive support and are educated about how to deal with their symptoms, they can enjoy a better life." The research was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the study was completed in 2007 and published in the medical journal CHEST.

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