Ten Things You Must Know About Asthma
On the World Asthma Day 2012, Halabol brings to you a snapshot of ten most important things you must know about Asthma. In western countries, in spite of various programs to create awareness, only about one-fifth of asthma patients and their families are aware of all of them. One can imagine what would be the situation in India. Spread the word!
World Asthma Day is observed on the first Tuesday of May, and this year's theme is “You Can Control Your Asthma”. It is really unfortunate that despite the prevalence of this disease, there’s little awareness, and a whole lot of myths. We enlist top 10 things you must know about asthma; remember that being well-versed with such basics can translate in better management of asthma, something that becomes essential if a dear one of yours is (or likely to be) afflicted by the condition.
1. It is incommunicable, i.e. it doesn’t spread through contact!
An overwhelming majority of individuals surveyed in India thought that asthma can spread through air. Asthma happens to a genetic basis mostly (and that doesn’t mean only the last generation of an individual; it can well be coming from an individual 15 generations back). It can be compared to allergies – they don’t spread through contact or air, do they?
Allergens that may trigger asthma are diverse, but vary from individual to individual. No two persons must always be allergic to same thing; similarly, asthma allergens may be different for different individuals. Examples include house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture; outdoor allergens such as pollens and moulds; pollution and pet dander; tobacco smoke and chemical irritants. What more, it can be triggered by cold air, extreme state of emotions (anger or fear), and physical exercise.
2. It is not debilitating, if monitored and managed
One doesn’t need to pity asthma patients. They mostly do fine; if they are regular with their medicinal routine and exercise caution in staying away from stuff that triggers asthmatic episodes in them, they can carry out almost all the activities that others do.
In fact, about 90% of asthmatic individuals can easily manage their asthma with the help of drugs, but due to various factors (fear of getting addicted to inhalers and complacency), only about 40% are able to do so. Uncontrolled/untreated asthma causes irreversible damage to the lungs, which can result in death, too.
3. It afflicts without a bias for economic status
The condition of asthma is quite socialistic; it treats (or mistreats) everyone similarly. In fact, there is an evidence is that more urban a population is, higher the prevalence of asthma; the exact reasons are unknown, but your guess is as good as ours – it, certainly, is impacted by lifestyle. Globally, some 235 million people suffer from asthma, and as we mentioned, they may not necessarily be poor. The condition is the most common chronic among children. Asthma is not just a public health problem for high income countries: it occurs in all countries regardless of level of development. But yes, due to poor treatment availability, over 80% of asthma deaths occurs in low and lower-middle income countries.
4. It’s not a disease; it’s a condition
We must avoid calling it a disease, since it’s similar to allergy. Remember that article on superbugs, where we told you how our body is naturally inclined to defend itself from foreign agents. Some people are extra-sensitive to even the most trivial of foreign things, such as pollen and dust.
5. Being asthmatic is different from having an asthmatic episode
If someone has asthma, (s)he has it all the time, but (s)he will have asthma attacks only when something bothers his/her lungs. An asthmatic episode may cause repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. All these are caused by the swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes that causes the airways to narrow, thereby reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs.
6. Nothing can cure it (as of now)
In most cases, we don't know what causes asthma, and we don't yet know how to cure it. We can only manage it. Treatment may be possible in future when individualized medicine starts getting practised. The only thing medicos can tell you conclusively is that if someone in your family has asthma, you are also more likely to have it.
Asthma can be managed by sticking to treatment without complacency, and staying away from likely triggers.
7. Nebulizers are safe, golden standard, and no, they don’t lead to addiction
In India, use of inhalers is thought to be habit-forming, and that’s a major cause of concern for healthcare experts in our country. Various researches prove that adherence to inhaled corticosteroid medications is the most effective treatment for asthma available today, and can go a long way in improving asthma control in patients. Actually, these inhaled drugs imitate hormone function and reduce inflammation of airways.
8. You may be neglecting it until it’s too late
At times, asthma goes undiagnosed, especially in children younger than 5 years. Regular checkups and a tab on possible allergies can help a medical professional make the right diagnosis. Such diagnosis often comes as a shock to parents, who may not know anything about the condition and its nature.
Diagnosis often involves a set of questions on whether someone coughs a lot, especially at night, and whether breathing problems are worse after physical activity or during a particular time of year. Additional questions may be about family history and regularity at work/school. A lung function test, called spirometry involves measuring air exhaled before and after one uses asthma medicine. A significant difference can give away the condition easily.
9. It is not a fever that will be over sometime
It’s important to understand that allergies don’t disappear overnight, and there are no wonder-drugs out there, which may do that (not even those fish/bananas). With age, one’s seriousness of asthma may decrease, but it never disappears completely. You cannot simply ask your white blood cells to not react to foreign stuff (allergens); that may be possible in future – using nanotechnology in medicine.
In fact, adherence to asthma treatment usually falters after a few months, when a patient benefits from the medicines and finds initial temporary relief. That surely leads to various problems.
10. Importance of a balanced Diet
A balanced diet is recommended for everyone, but asthmatics may find it more difficult to combat the condition without proper nutrition. For instance, people with low Vitamin D levels, estimated to be up to 40 per cent of the population, experience more pronounced symptoms of asthma. The reason may be that inhaled steroids do not work well in people with low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin, is a critical natural factor which reduces inflammation.
We hope you make the maximum use of this information and share it with your near and dear ones. Stay healthy!
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