World Asthma Day

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Asthma is an allergic disease that causes airway problems to the lungs. As a result of asthma, the patient may suffer from severe breathing difficulty. It eventually makes the person feel difficult in performing some physical activities. Asthma is related to the breathing issue. When people are exposed to different stimulants like food, air and water, our airways will contract and cause asthma symptoms.

Asthma is a genetic disease. This problem may arise in people because of smoke, dust, cold or some chemical exposures. The burden of allergic diseases has been increasing globally these days. To prevent or reduce the percentage of people suffering from asthma, we celebrate world asthma day every year in the month of May.
Here is an excerpt from a video interview with Dr Ravindra Nallagonda, HOD – Pulmonology, Sleep medicine & Critical care at Omni Hospitals, Kukatpally, Hyderabad on the topic ‘Asthma.’ Get to know more information about Asthma, World Asthma Day and the importance of this day.This guide helps you in understanding more about Asthma, causes, symptoms and treatment.

Q. What is Asthma?

A. Asthma is an allergic disease of the airways that affects the people who are often exposed to various environmental factors. Genetically, vulnerable people usually get affected by these environmental factors. When people inhale the dust, smoke, cool air and other irritant factors through the airways, it shows the symptoms of asthma.

Q. What are the symptoms of Asthma?

A. Asthma is a reversible disease. The patient may suffer from severe problems such as chest tightness, breathing difficulty, mucus production and other symptoms. All these symptoms will get back to normal after some time in asthma patients. Some other symptoms of asthma include running nose, sneezes, nose blockage, throughout itching and more.

Q. What is World Asthma Day and its significance?

A. World Asthma Day is celebrated every year on 7th May to increase awareness among the public regarding Asthma disease. Even after witnessing several technological advancements in the medical field, there is a rapid increase in the growth of different types of diseases.

There are several non-communicable diseases across the world such as heart strokes, kidney problems and more. Apart from these diseases, the percentage of allergic diseases has been increasing globally. More than 60 million people around the world have been suffering from allergic diseases.

Asthma or lung disease is a major life-threatening disease that can decrease the quality of life in an individual. To enhance awareness among the population regarding asthma, it’s symptoms, medications, triggering factors and other lung issues, the world asthma day was evolved.

Q. What happens during an asthma attack?

A. If it is the first attack, it is very difficult to find out that the person is suffering from asthma. The most common symptom of an asthma attack is chest tightness. People attacked with asthma may not be able to take a deep breath. In some people, they find difficulty in breathing and feel as if their stomach is full during an asthma attack. When people are attacked with asthma, they get cough [wet cough or dry cough]. If asthma is associated with allergic rhinitis, it causes sneezing, throat pain, itching and nose blocks.

Q. What are the trigger factors of asthma?

A. Indoor and outdoor pollutions are the major trigger factors of asthma. Most people think that there may not be any sort of pollutions indoor. In fact, there are more than 200 varieties of indoor pollutants. Some of the trigger factors of asthma include AC, fungus, house dust, cigarette smoke or any kind of smoke, vehicle exhaust, pet animal fur, animal saliva, presence of cockroaches at home, droppings of animals in the house.

Especially, house dust causes more asthma attacks. When asthma patients are exposed to the aforementioned trigger factors, they cause more asthma symptoms to the patients. In some people, they may get asthma triggers while doing exercise or because of emotional imbalances like an extreme laugh or excessive crying.

These asthma symptoms may be more at night time and during winter and spring seasons. There are several substances that cause asthma attacks such as nitrogen derivatives, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, vehicle exhaust pollution and more.

Q. What are the side effects of asthma in kids?

A. Mostly, kids with asthma suffer from frequent cold, breathing difficulty, may not be able to mingle with people, unable to focus on studies, couldn’t participate in co-curriculum activities and sports. Due to frequent breathing problems, such kids may not be able to attend school regularly.

As a result, it shows an immense impact on their academics. Sometimes, kids face a lot of congestion in the throat and middle ear. It eventually causes pus formation in the ear in children. It is a kind of ear infection which is known as acute suppurative otitis media in children.

If asthma is not diagnosed for several decades, it lessens the supply of oxygen to the body. It results in severe complications such as COPD and heart failures. These are some of the major side effects of asthma in kids if it is neglected for decades.

Q. Is asthma a chronic disease?

A. As asthma is genetically related, it is considered as a chronic disease. However, this problem mostly arises in people specifically during the winter season. It is considered seasonal asthma and it is chronic as it affects the person every year. In some people, an asthma attack may be throughout the year. When there is a certain change in the environmental and atmospheric conditions, lifestyle changes, change in place for the asthma patient, they may not come across asthma attacks for several years. If the attacks are continuous, it may lead to more complications.

Q. What are the treatments available to cure Asthma?

A. There are several treatment options available in hospitals for asthma. The basic medications of asthma are categorized into two types i.e., reliever and controller.

Whenever a person is having some breathing difficulty or acute attack or cough, they require reliever as the basic medication. The doctors give this medication to such patients. Usually, reliever medication is given in the form of either tablets or inhalers. This medication will work immediately and provides some relief to the patient from asthma symptoms. Inhalation is the most preferred medication option for asthma patients.

On the other hand, the controller is another category wherein the patient with asthma can be controlled through inhaled steroids. The doctors usually give controller and reliever either separately or together as per the requirement. Even after using these two ways of medications, they don’t come under control, they are given certain medicines or provided some extra add-on therapies.

If the person is suffering from a severe asthma attack and the attacks aren’t relieved even after using the aforementioned medications, they are given nebulizer therapies like inhalation. Otherwise, they are given tablet-form steroids or injectable-form steroids.

Q. What are the combination medications?

A. Relievers and controllers are the combination medications given for asthma patients. Relievers give instant relief to the patient. On the other hand, controllers work constantly and prevent airway inflammation. Controllers bring back the normal architecture of the airways. As a result, it prevents further attacks of asthma.

Q. What are the common myths and facts of asthma?

A. The most common myth that we come across is regarding the inhalers. Once we start using inhalers, they are bad and addictive. Inhalers are not at all addictive. In fact, they are good for the health of asthma patients.

Another myth of asthma is when the patients are given medications for asthma, they must use at least 3 to 4 months. Mostly, some people in India use asthma medication till the coarse duration i.e., for about 5 to 10 days. This is the most common approach of people towards taking the medication. Such people should keep in mind that they should use the medication until it is cured and take necessary precautions by avoiding trigger factors. When there is ongoing inflammation, the patients should endure using the inhalers. For instance, when there is an asthma attack and there is damage to the airways, the patients should continue the medication until it repairs the airways. If the patient stops using the medication immediately, the repair process won’t happen. As a result, they will be exposed to the trigger factors in the same atmosphere and the same season and it causes further damage to the airways.

Q. How to prevent asthma from being harmful?

A. It is possible to prevent the serious effects of asthma. The awareness about the disease among the public should increase. The patient should be aware of the medicine to intake during the attack. They should know when to increase the dosage and decrease the dosage by understanding the symptoms. The patients should have the ability to manage the asthma attack. Any infection can trigger asthma. So, the patient should be aware of the trigger factors and they should stay away from such environmental conditions.

Q. Does asthma gets severe as the patient becomes older?

A. It depends on the severity of asthma in the patient. If a person is having regular asthma attacks, there is a chance that their lung damage may increase, disease severity may increase and the frequency of the attack may increase. In some people, as they get older, the attacks may be lessened. In the majority of people, asthma severity might be continued even in the adult age. However, the severity of the disease depends on the patient’s disease category and the persistence level of the patient.

Q. Is it safe to exercise with asthma?

A. Any kind of exercise increases lung capacity. The patient’s breathing difficulty will come down eventually. It is very much beneficial by doing exercise even if the patient has asthma. There are even some athletes who have asthma and still they perform well. In some people, there is exercise-induced asthma. Such people should take inhalers and go for doing exercise.

Q. How different is an asthma child from other children?

A. Mostly, the kids with asthma look normal like the remaining kids when there is no attack. But, when there is an attack, you will be able to identify the kid’s performance. Such kids may not be able to stay normal due to irritation factors, chest tightness, unable to hold the bag or climb steps. The asthma children may not be able to concentrate on their studies and eventually remains poor in their academics.

Q. What changes should be made at home to control the symptoms of asthma?

A. Usually, the environment where the asthma patients are living, it shouldn’t have dampened atmosphere in the surroundings or in the house.

  • No fungus
  • No pet animals like cats
  • No carpet
  • No cockroaches and rats in and around the house
  • No Dust-catching accumulation like old mattresses
  • No usage of perfumes at home
  • Clean the house using a vaccum cleaner instead of brooms
  • Place good ventilation and chimneys in the kitchen
  • No cigarette smokers at home and the asthma patients shouldn’t be exposed to any kind of smoke
  • No paintings and varnishes that give a strong smell

Q. What kind of tests should be done to monitor asthma?

A. Usually, asthma can be diagnosed mostly through the complaints that the patients tell the doctor. It is known as the clinical diagnosis. Sometimes, the doctors perform certain tests such as pulmonary function tests. Through this test, it is possible to find out the functioning of the lungs. Blood examination, chest X-ray, sputum examination, IgE and PFT are done to diagnose asthma.

Q. Can I have pets even though I have asthma?

A. Mostly, it depends on the acceptability of the patient. In general, the doctors suggest asthma patients move the pets from the house. According to some studies, even after removing the pets from the house, the secretions, saliva, protein droppings and dandruff of the pets will remain in the surroundings of the house for about 4 to 6 months.
It may cause asthma attacks in the patients. If you still want to raise a pet in your house, it is advised to keep the pet away from the bed or into the living area. The doctors give more instructions to the patients regarding cleaning the fur of the pets, taking some care of the pets so that they may not be exposed highly to the pet-related trigger factors.

Q. Is there any quick curing technique to use when asthma symptoms get worse?

A. In fact, there is no such technique to use when asthma symptoms get worse.

Q. Is asthma hereditary?

A. Yes, asthma is transmitted through genes from parents to the kids. If the mother and father have asthma then, there are higher chances of the kid getting asthma. If one parent is having asthma, the percentage of getting asthma is pretty less. If both parents are not having asthma, there are still 7 to 10 percent of the chances that the kids may get asthma. Besides genetic factors, the children may get asthma due to some environmental factors.

Q. Can kids with asthma have ice-cream or cool foods?

A. The kids who are usually precipitated or allergic to cold weather, they should avoid cool foods like ice-creams, cool water and cool drinks. Coldness is one of the trigger factors of asthma.

Summary

The asthma patients should consult a doctor soon after diagnosing it as asthma. The patients should understand the disease symptoms, avoid the lung damage, follow the treatment protocols, evade the infectious things, enhance the quality of life and they need not worry about carrying an inhaler in public places. Lungs are most important than anything else for any individual. So, every person should have basic awareness about allergic conditions and asthma and stay attentive.

Dr Ravindra Nallagonda

HOD – Dept. of Pulmonology, Sleep Medicine and Critical Care

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