Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, a feeling of chest tightness, or the production of mucus.
WHO CAN GET ASTHMA?
Anyone! Asthma is most likely to occur in children by age 5, and in adults in their 30s. Even older adults can develop asthma: about 10 percent of new asthma cases are diagnosed in people who are 65 years or older. City/town dwellers are more likely to have asthma that people living elsewhere.
Certain factors increase your chances of developing asthma. For example, if one of your parents has the disease, then you are more likely to get it. If you have allergies, you’re more likely to develop asthma as well. (As a matter of fact, at least 80 percent of children and 50 percent adults with asthma also have allergies.)
- Have you had a sudden severe episode or recurrent episodes of coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath?
- Have you had cold that affected your breathing or took more than 10 days to get over?
- Have you had coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath during a particular season or time of the year?
- Have you had coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath in certain places or when exposed to certain things (e.g. animals, tobacco smoke, perfumes)?
- Have you used any medications that help you breathe better?
In the past 4 weeks, have you had coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath..
- That has awakened you during the night?
- In the early morning?
- After running, moderate exercise, or other physical activity?
Not diagnosing asthma promptly is a frequent problem, especially in children who wheeze when the have respiratory infections. These children are often labeled as having bronchitis, bronchiolitis, or pneumonia. There are two general patterns of wheezing in infancy: nonallergic and allergic. As they grow in the preschool years nonallergic infants no longer wheeze as their airways get larger. Allergic infants are more likely to have asthma that will continue throughout childhood. Some children see their asthma go into remission for years, only to return later in life. If your child has asthma, take care of it now – untreated asthma may cause permanent lung damage.
WHAT CAUSES ASTHMA?
People with asthma have inflamed airways that are supersensitive to things which do not bother other people. These things are called “triggers.” Although asthma “triggers” vary from person to person, some of the most common include:
- Substances/Allergens such as dust mites, pollens, molds, pet dander, and even cockroaches and their waste.
- Irritants in the air, including smoke from cigarettes, wood fires or charcoal grills. Also, strong fumes or odors like household sprays, paint, petrol (gasoline), perfume, and scented soaps.
- Respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sore throats, and sinus infections. These are the most common asthma triggers in children.
- Exercise and other activities that make you breathe harder.
- Weather such as dry wind, cold air, or sudden changes in weather.
People with asthma have inflamed, super sensitive airways. Their “triggers” cause the following airway changes, which in turn cause asthma symptoms:
- The lining of the airways swell and become more inflamed,
- Mucus clogs the airways, and
- The muscles around the airways tighten (bronchospasm).
There are two general classes of asthma medications: long-term control medicines and quick-relief medications.
- Long-term control medicines achieve and maintain control of persistent asthma. This class of medicines, Long-acting beta2-agonists, includes:- inhaled (eg Beclomethasone, Budesonide, Salmeterol , Theophylline, and Fluticasone) and oral corticosteroids, Cromolyn Sodium, nedocromil,The most effective medications for long-term control are those shown to prevent or reverse inflammation in the airways. This makes the airways less sensitive and keeps them from reacting as easily to triggers. In short, they help prevent asthma “attacks”.
- Quick-relief medicines treat acute symptoms and “attacks”. This class of medications, Short-acting beta2-agonists, includes:- ipratropium bromide, Salbutamol sulphate and non-inhaled corticosteroids used as a “burst” relief in extreme cases.These Bronchodilators open the airways by relaxing muscles that tighten in and around the airways during asthma episodes.Many asthma medications are taken using a metered dose inhaler (MDI). For inhalers to work well, they must be used correctly. But well over half of all people who use inhalers do not use them properly. Ask your Doctor or Asthma Nurse to watch you and check your technique. Also ask about spacers/volumisers.WHAT CAN I DO?
It must be stressed:
- Asthma is a chronic disease. You need to take care of it all the time, not just when you have symptoms.The best way to take care of asthma is to work in partnership with your health care team – Doctor and/or Asthma nurse.The more you know, the better you can help control your own asthma.
- Remember, the best way to control your asthma is to follow the plan your Doctor has advised.The Four Parts of Self Managing Asthma
- Identify and minimize contact with your asthma “trigger’s”.
- Understand and take your medications as prescribed.
- Monitor your asthma and recognize early signs that it is worsening.
There is a simple device called a ‘peak flow meter’ that can detect narrowing in your airways hours, or even days, before you feel symptoms. You simply blow into it, as instructed by your Doctor or Asthma nurse, to monitor your airways the same way you might use a blood pressure cuff to measure high blood pressure or a thermometer to take your temperature. Also ask your doctor for a peak flow device.Some people with asthma need to see a specialist in asthma care, usually a specially trained allergist or pulmonologist or occasionally other physicians with additional training and experience. Those persons with asthma requiring daily long-term control medication who are exposed to year round indoor allergens will probably need allergen testing in addition to medication.
With good management of your asthma you can expect to:
- Be free from severe symptoms day and night, including sleeping through the night
- Have the best possible lung function
- Be able to participate fully in any activities of your choice
- Not miss work or school because of asthma symptoms
- Not need emergency visits or hospitalisations for asthma
- Use asthma medications to control asthma with as few side effects as possible
Presently, there is no known cure for asthma. However, medical researchers worldwide are making tremendous progress in learning what causes asthma and how to prevent attacks. With this knowledge, a cure may be possible in the future!