BF21Women with asthma often face extra difficulty controlling their symptoms due to fluctuating hormones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), especially during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. CDC says changing estrogen levels can lead to an inflammatory response, so it is important for women to know the warning signs of an attack, stay away from things that set off their symptoms, and follow the advice of their physician with regard to medication.

A recent study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that women over 65 face even more challenges in treating asthma, due to other barriers to good health that include obesity and poverty. The study points out that the asthma death rate in this group is nearly four times higher than in other groups.

According to Alan Baptist, MD, MPH, a board-certified allergist and immunologist in Ann Arbor, Mich., and lead author of the study, older women with multiple health problems admit that asthma takes a backseat to other conditions. However, he says, by making asthma a priority, older women can improve their overall health.

“We want older women to understand that getting their asthma under control can help them control a range of other adverse health conditions” such as diabetes or obesity, Dr. Baptist explains.

The educational program Women Breathe Free helps women 18 years or older better manage their asthma, reduce flare-ups and emergency room visits, and improve quality of life.

Women Breathe Free participants work closely with asthma educators and nurse educators to develop their asthma management skills. The program also helps participants strengthen communication with their doctor to get the most out of their treatment plan.

When women understand how to control their asthma – instead of their asthma controlling them – they are able to handle any situation and symptoms that lead to an asthma flare, including stress and exposure to triggers such as pollen, mold, dust mites or cleaning chemicals.

Allergy & Asthma Network partnered with the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan to launch the nationwide program in 2014.

Want to participate? The Women Breathe Free program is free and any information submitted is confidential. Call Allergy & Asthma Network at 800.878.4403 or email Marcela Gieminiani, Women Breathe Free manager, at

For more information, visit our Women Breathe Free page.