Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Asthma: frequently asked questions

One condition that really affects one’s quality of life is asthma. Both children and adults can be affected by asthma. Recurrent attacks of shortness of breath, chest tightness with dry cough should raise suspicions for asthma.

What is Asthma?
Asthma is a known chronic disease that affects the breathing system in our bodies. When it occurs, the small branches of the wind pipe become narrow and fill up with secretions. This makes it difficult for air to escape the lungs when you breathe out. This is what makes you struggle to breathe.

Does asthma have triggers?
Yes, it does. The airway of an asthmatic usually shows hypersensitivity to certain things in their environment. These could be animal dander, dust, chemical fumes, tobacco smoke, cold or dry air and exercise, pollen or cockroaches.

How does asthma present?
During an attack one usually presents with dry cough, difficulty in breathing, which usually presents with melodious sounds (wheezes). The attacks are often recurrent and respond to certain medications that relax and open the airway.

Does asthma and allergy occur together?
Many people with asthma have often showed allergic response to certain substances, including those identified to trigger asthmatic attack. Children with asthma always have a history of allergy, especially in the nose, mouth, eyes or even skin where rashes tend to be dominant. Recurrent nose blockage, runny nose, itchy eyes are known manifestations of allergy. Not all kids with these symptoms have asthma though! Many adults with asthma also show signs of allergy, especially in ear, nose and throat.

Is asthma curable?
Asthma is not curable but treatable. It can be controlled with avoidance to triggers and asthma medications. If properly diagnosed, one can control it by medications which relax and widen the airway during an attack. Those who get regular and recurrent attacks are often given another spray medication to take daily for prevention of attacks.

What common conditions can mimic asthma?
Many diseases can present like asthma, and thus one needs proper medical assessment to diagnose asthma. The conditions include: heart disease, infection of the airways, occupational lung disease and side effects of certain drugs.

How does one prevent asthma?
Avoid triggers: If possible make sure you avoid triggers. It is important to know what causes the attacks. If you get attacks when certain plants in the yard start flowering, then it means you could be having a problem with pollen grains. In that case, it may be wise to remove them from the yard. If they are in the neighbourhood, then you need to inform your doctor(s). This could allow them to consider appropriate treatment during the flowering periods such as during spring season. Avoid smoking and dusty areas, and always ensure that you thoroughly clean your home to keep coach roaches at bay.

Monitor it regularly: Asthma attacks come in varying times and frequencies and thus need regular medical monitoring or even intervention where necessary. You may be comfortable with relieving your symptoms with a spray every week but your doctor may not be happy with it and may want to intensify your treatment to lessen the attacks. It is wise to keep a diary and record all attacks that you experience. This will help your doctor to manage your asthma. Do not miss your check ups and always take your medications with you when you visit a doctor.

Take medications as prescribed: Please understand your medications very well. Make sure you know why you are taking them. Do not stop your medications before consulting with your doctor unless you experience some undesirable side effects of such medications. Stopping or skipping doses can make your asthma attacks recurrent and difficult to control.

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