In asthma, patients have sensitive airways, which react to triggers, causing breathlessness. In an acute attack, the muscles around the airway contracts resulting in narrowing of airways. In addition to this, there is swelling of airway and even the accumulation of mucus within airways. All these factors result in difficulty in breathing. An asthma flare-up can come on slowly, i.e. over hours, days or even weeks or sometimes very quickly over minutes.
Asthma can affect any age group. Asthma varies in different regions due to distinct genetic, environmental and occupational risk factors. Out of the 334 million people who have asthma, 14% of them are children, and around 8.6% are young adults. Worldwide, about 250,000 deaths are attributed to this disease each year. In India, 3-38 % of children and around 2-12% of adults are affected by it, with a national burden estimated to be around 18 million.
Also Read: Treat Asthma With These Remedies at Home
Patients symptoms can vary over different time. At times they may be completely asymptomatic, especially when their asthma is well-controlled or may have severe breathlessness and may even require hospitalisation. Common Symptoms seen are
- Tightness in the chest
- Cough which is mostly recurrent and spasmodic
- Some of the common triggers are:
- Common cold or viral infection
- Allergens like pollen, mites, animal fur
- Irritants like smoke and dust
- heightened emotions
- air pollution
- Physical activity
Also Read: How Does Asthma Affect the Body
The best form of treatment is medication taken through an inhaler. Inhalers contain measured doses of medication taken into airways when one breathes in. Advantage of inhalation therapy is that it delivers medicine directly into airways and hence has a prompt action. Even the dosage required is much less and hence lesser side effects. Moreover, inhalers are small, light-weight, and easily portable in a purse or pocket. Patients are advised to always carry these devices with them as they can be used immediately during an acute attack. These are relatively easy to use with proper instructions. These devices are available predominantly in two forms, i.e. Metered Dose Inhalers or Dry powder inhalers. In acute attacks and a small subset of patients who are not able to take drugs via inhalers, the drug may be administered via Nebulisers. Nebulisers are helpful in those patients who find challenging to coordinate, particularly young children, mentally challenged, and the elderly.
In addition to medication, one must maintain a healthy lifestyle to control his/her asthma. Avoid eating spicy and chilled food. Fast food and aerated drinks are potentially harmful and may worsen asthma. It is advised to avoid going to bed immediately after dinner as gastroesophageal reflux may trigger asthma. Exercising regularly, eating healthy food and avoiding stress is vital to control asthma.
With inputs from Dr Sandeep Nayar, Senior Consultant & HOD, Respiratory Medicine, Allergy & Sleep Disorder, BLK Super Speciality Hospital
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