Nevada air quality helpful to asthmatics |

Nevada air quality helpful to asthmatics

by Susie Vasquez

Nevada has the highest rate of asthma in the nation, in part because people with asthma choose to move here, according to a study conducted by the Nevada State Health Division.

“The Northern Nevada climate is arid, and air pollution levels are not high,” said Dr. Ihsan Azzam, public health manager for the state. “Families with asthmatic children and retired people with asthma move here for that reason.”

The news isn’t all good. Bad air quality in Clark County and the high rate of cigarette smoking here are also taking their toll, Azzam said.

“We need to improve the air quality in Las Vegas,” he said. “One out of every eight to 10 school-age children there has asthma.”

The national average for asthmatic children is significantly lower, at about 12 percent for children under the age of 18, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, the disease is often triggered by allergens and irritants like cigarette smoke.

The latter seriously affects both young and old stricken with the disease, but of all the factors affecting asthmatics, it is the easiest to change, Azzam said.

“Nevada used to have one of the highest rates of smoking in the nation, but through the efforts of Nevada’s Tobacco Prevention Program, those rates have dropped significantly,” he said. “We’re now ranked 11th in the nation, for smoking.”

Asthma attacks all age groups, but often starts in childhood, and treatment of children is the most vital, Azzam said.

The condition is due to inflammation of air passages in the lungs and affects the sensitivity of the nerve endings in the airways so they easily become irritated. The lining of the passages swell, narrowing the airways and reducing the flow of air in and out of the lungs.

Nationally, the disease affects an estimated 20 million Americans and 9 million children, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

During the past 20 years, the number of school absences due to asthma has doubled. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 14 million school days were missed due to asthma in 2000.

Contact Susie Vasquez at or 881-1212.