Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways says the Global Initiative for Asthma. Asthma is a long-term condition.
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways. These are the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal. When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs, known as a trigger, your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm). This makes it difficult to breathe and causes wheezing and coughing. It may also make your chest feel tight.
Symptoms of asthma are often worse at night, and they are:
shortness of breath,
tight feeling in the chest, and a
Asthma attacks are the result of gradual worsening of symptoms over a few days that you may not have noticed.
My first experience of asthma was not a pleasant one in Africa. My child was always wheezing, coughing and then one night, I noticed that my child at the age of about 8 months started coughing seriously and was unable to breathe. I rushed him to a teaching hospital where I was asked if anyone in my family have had bronchi disease. My child was diagnosed with having bronchi disease; we were given an antibiotic prescription and were discharged after spending 5 days at the hospital. But this bronchi disease kept coming back (because most of the triggers, mainly air pollution which is common in Africa) and my child was constantly prescribed antibiotics (nobody mentioned the use of inhalers and steroids medication). It was scary because i wasn’t able to sleep, and was always beside my child, praying. Some people even started saying he was an evil child (illiteracy and superstition).
During the first few days of our reaching United Kingdom, my child was rushed to the hospital where they diagnosed asthma. My child was given steroids medication, antibiotics, the blue (ventolin) and brown (clenil modulate) inhalers and was reviewed every week until the asthma symptoms was put under control. Though it still gets out of control sometimes, but i am grateful my child is alive today.
When asthma is under control patients can:
• Avoid troublesome symptoms night and day
• Use little or no reliever medication (ventolin)
• Have productive, physically active lives
• Have (near) normal lung function
• Avoid serious attacks
Asthma causes recurring episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases, with an estimated 300 million individuals affected worldwide. Its prevalence is increasing, especially among children.
I can remember being told to limit the exposure to asthma triggers which are:
• Allergies - such as those from house dust mites, animals with fur, cockroaches, pollens, and molds
• Exercise – I was told to give the ventolin inhaler to my child thirty minutes before every exercise.
• Illness – to take note if any illness makes my child’s asthma worse, and report back to the doctor.
• Other Irritants – like talcum powder, chalk dust and coal dust.
• Strong fumes – like perfume, paint, chemical cleaners or cooking fumes (could be used outside or in a well-ventilated area).
• Smoke - from tobacco, wood, or car exhaust.
• Cold Air, Wind or Weather Changes
• Medication - ibuprofen or beta blockers (other options could be given)
By identifying and avoiding asthma triggers, you can reduce the frequency and severity of many attacks and even eliminate some entirely.
Please consult your doctor if you notice wheezing and coughing in you or your child.
Your doctor will diagnose, treat, and give you an action plan. By following an asthma plan that will help you manage your condition more effectively and avoid the triggers that cause flare ups, you will be on the road to more symptom-free days and less asthma attacks.
Partnering with your doctor is an important part of this process; he can help you identify asthma triggers and advise you on the best ways to avoid them.
Asthma can be made worse by constant exposure to triggers, but with the help, medication, advise and action plan of a doctor, it can be controlled.
The Healthy Wellbeing
• Asthma UK, ‘What to do in an asthma attack’,
• British Lung Foundation, ‘Asthma’, http://www.lunguk.org/you-and-your-lungs/conditions-and-diseases/asthma.htm?gclid=CJnsi47896wCFcMMtAodshcGSQ
• Global Initiative for asthma (GINA), ‘Pocket Guide for Asthma Management and Prevention’, http://www.ginasthma.org/guidelines-pocket-guide-for-asthma-management.html
• NHS Choices, ‘Asthma’ http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/pages/introduction.aspx
• NHS Choices, Asthma in children, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Asthma-in-children/Pages/Introduction.aspx