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Allergy & Clinical Immunology Unit
The incidence of asthma is rising in many developed countries. In the United States alone, an estimated 22 million adults and children suffer from asthma.
At the Mass General Asthma Program, we believe that an approach of delivering asthma care under emergency or urgent conditions is not ideal—and possibly has contributed to the growing prevalence of this condition. We emphasize routine, long-term management and monitoring. Our primary goal is to enable patients to maintain normal lung function and a healthy lifestyle while avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room and hospital stays. In essence, we want our patients to control their asthma and not let the asthma control them.
Every asthmatic patient's case is different, and we tailor our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches accordingly.
At your first appointment, you can expect an in-depth consultation with one of our allergy specialists. In order to diagnose asthma—and distinguish it from other lung disorders—we may perform:
Following diagnosis, we will first recommend avoidance or minimizing exposure to the identified triggers. We will carefully explain which environmental factors may be causing your symptoms and how to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
Next, we will recommend medications (if necessary). Asthma medications typically take the form of inhalers and occasionally tablets. All of our nurses have specialized advanced training as "Asthma Educators" and provide expert guidance on how to use and care for the inhaler devices.
For some patients with severe asthma, oral corticosteroids and/or anti-immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) therapy may be appropriate. Whereas inhaled steroids reduce inflammation associated with asthma, anti-IgE therapy potentially can prevent inflammation from developing in the first place.
We embrace and adhere to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's Asthma Management Guidelines, which emphasize regular monitoring of the degree of control of the patient's asthma. Routine monitoring allows us to adjust your medication incrementally during periods of increased severity—and to reduce it during prolonged periods of good control, which helps you stay well and steer clear of medical crises.
Our patients enjoy easy access to world-class clinicians from related specialties. We work closely and share a suite with Mass General pulmonology specialists, making it convenient for patients to have pulmonary-related exams, tests and consultations. In addition, we often manage care jointly with ear, nose and throat specialists from the nearby Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
We offer a full range of asthma services, both at Mass General's main campus and at Mass General West in Waltham. Since we understand asthma can cause acute symptoms, we have a staff physician and a fellow on call 24/7 to answer patient questions and address emergency issues.
We are one of the only academic medical centers in Boston to treat both adults and children with asthma, which is important because asthma tends to run in families. Once we establish an effective treatment regimen for one patient, we can often take the same approach in caring for another family member. In addition, our patients enjoy the comfort that comes from receiving lifelong care at a single facility.
We care for patients with all major forms of asthma, including:
All of our allergy specialists treat asthmatic patients. Our team includes physicians who are nationally known for treating this condition and are leading the way in developing novel treatments, such as combination and anti-immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) therapies.
Many asthma-related research studies are taking place at Mass General, with the ultimate goal of translating findings into improved clinical care as soon as possible. In the area of basic science, our physicians are investigating the mechanism of disease of asthma. Current clinical trials are exploring combination therapy as well as anti-IgE therapy (including its use during pregnancy).
We are dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders as academic clinicians and basic scientists in allergy and immunology. Fellows in the Allergy and Immunology Training Program receive clinical and research training in asthma and all other major conditions. Internal medicine residents also gain exposure to asthma patients as part of their general training.
Drs. Diana Balekian and Paul Hesterberg, Allergy and Immunology specialists, share insights in allergies and asthma and preventive ways to care for the conditions.
Pediatric Asthma Coordinator Erik Hinderlie answers questions about the condition that affects 6.3 million children in the US.
This Asthma and Allergy Month, Christina Scirica, MD, MPH, a MassGeneral Hospital for Children pulmonologist and weight expert, answers questions on how obesity can affect a child's health, plus more helpful insights.
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