During an asthma attack, too much mucus in the airways can make breathing difficult. Recent research may point the way toward preventing overproduction of the sticky stuff.

Imagine having an asthma attack at the same time that your nose is congested with mucus. Maybe you’ve even experienced this problem before. The extra gunk can make it even more difficult to get a good breath in. A study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may get scientists closer to an airway-clearing solution.

The stars of the study — two proteins called CLCA1 and TMEM16A — aren’t new discoveries; scientists have known about both for years. What is novel is the relationship between the molecules, and their implications for the treatment of airway diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The researchers knew this much entering the study: overabundance of CLCA1 proteins in airway cells had something to do with the body’s production of mucus. The scientists just didn’t know exactly what. They also knew that excess TMEM16A, a kind of cellular channel, played some sort of role in overdevelopment of mucus, but its mechanism was still unclear.

After running some tests, the team found that they could adjust the number of TMEM16A proteins by increasing the number of CLCA1 proteins in nearby cells. As scientists continue experimenting, they may be able to “turn off” asthma patients’ mucus-making mechanisms in the future.

However, until physicians can control mucus production in patients diagnosed with asthma, asthmatics should stick to doctor approved treatments like quick-relief inhalers.

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Summertime, and the Living Isn’t Easy

Looking forward to summer? These tips can help keep an asthma flare-up from ruining your good time during vacation season:

  • Beware of seasonal triggers. Certain cherished outdoor activities, including swimming and camping, can put individuals with asthma at risk for attacks. The smell of chlorine, for example, can trigger an asthma incident (be sure the pool isn’t too pungent before you dive in).
  • Check the climate. Headed to a humid or hazy locale? Check the weather ahead of time and plan your trip activities around muggy periods, as such conditions can aggravate asthma.
  • Make a list — and check it twice. You don’t want to be caught on the road or on a plane without an asthma treatment. Before you zip your bag, check for necessary items, such as medications and a peak flow meter.
  • Stick to the plan. Even though your daily routine may be different, summer is no time to deviate from the main components of your asthma action plan. Make sure to know and avoid your triggers and take your medications as prescribed. Falling out of your medication regimen now could lead to asthma attacks in the months ahead.
  • As we’ve said before, communication is key. Let your travel companions know about your condition, so they can help avoid triggers and know what to do should you experience an exacerbation.


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