World Asthma Day: Taking an Aware Approach

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World Asthma Day: Taking an Aware Approach

According to estimates around 300 million people in the world currently suffer from asthma. Increasing urbanization is expected to cause a rise in this figure by an additional 100 million by the year 2025. Asthma is the common chronic disease in children and teenagers and is known to affect a significant percentage of the adult population too. Infact, it is the most important cause of absence from school and of hospital admissions during childhood.

The good news is that you can do a substantial lot to prevent asthma attacks and control the disease. The very first step in achieving this is awareness about the disease and exploding myths and misconceptions related to it.

4th May is World Asthma Day…so lets join hands and make efforts to increase public awareness about asthma and its judicious management.

What is Asthma?

Simply speaking, Asthma is a disease of airways characterized by episodes of difficulty in breathing accompanied by a sense of suffocation. But what actually goes wrong in asthma…? People with asthma have hypersensitive airways. This means that if the person is exposed to any “trigger” (such as pollen, house dust etc.) the muscles in the airways tighten and narrow. As very less air passes through these tightened airways a person feels difficulty in breathing. At the same time there is irritation or swelling of the lining of the airways. These swollen airways produce excess mucus, which is very thick and sticky and therefore tends to clog up the airways, making it even more difficult to breathe.

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What triggers asthma attacks?
Certain ‘things’ tend to bring on symptoms of asthma. These are called ‘asthma triggers‘. A person can prevent asthma symptoms by identifying and avoiding these triggers.

Some of the common triggers include…

  • Pollens
  • Mites in house dust, animal hair, feathers or fungal spores
  • Fish, eggs, milk, yeast, wheat
  • Food coloring agents, Monosodium glutamate (Ajinomoto salt), food like wines, pickles and vinegar
  • Perfumes and other agents with strong odor like paints or varnishes
  • Some medicinal drugs like aspirin, beta-blockers, histamine etc.
  • Sudden Exposure to cold
  • Tobacco smoke and pollution
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Emotional stress
  • Viral infections. Usually nasal symptoms like rhinitis (running nose) and sneezing can precede an attack of asthma.

Take charge!

A person with asthma can easily lead a normal and active life by keeping the following in mind:

  • Take asthma medications regularly as advised by your doctor. Remember, there is no single treatment for every case of asthma. Different patients of asthma need different medications i.e. the treatment needs to be individualized depending on the severity of the disease. Your doctor will prescribe the right medicine, or combination of medicines, and show you how to use them properly.
  • Identify the ‘triggers’ that make your asthma worse and try to avoid them.
  • Know what to do in an acute asthma attack.
  • Learn the proper technique required for effective use of inhaled medications.
  • Regularly monitor your condition with the help of a peak flow meter.
  • Be prepared for any kind of emergency. Learn to recognize the warning symptoms of asthma and immediately call your doctor if :
    • The quick relief medicine is not helping in relieving symptoms as before.
    • Your peak flow number goes down, or does not improve after treatment with bronchodilator, or drops to 50% or less of personal best.
    • Your heartbeat is very fast or if you are breathing rapidly.
    • Lips or finger nails turn blue or your nostrils flare ‘open wide’ on breathing.
    • You wake up repeatedly at night due to coughing or breathlessness.
    • You are unable to speak complete sentences and are falling short of breath.
    • You stop playing (observed in children) or working and cannot start again.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits
  • Exercises regularly: Exercising judiciously as per medical advice helps to improve lung capacity, stamina and induces a subjective feeling of well-being.
  • Explore alternative therapies like Yoga that could play a valuable role in the management of Asthma. However, this should be done under expert guidance

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