What is asthma?
Asthma is chronic inflammatory disease of lung airways.
People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs. When exposed to certain triggers, their airways narrow (see picture), making it hard for them to breathe.
There are two main factors that cause the airways to become narrow:
- The inside lining of the airways becomes red and swollen (inflammation) and extra mucus (sticky fluid) may be produced.
- The muscle around the airways tightens (Bronchoconstriction).
What are the main symptoms of asthma?
- Wheezing – a high-pitched raspy sound or whistle when breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Hereditary factors
- Environmental factors like dust, mite, pollen
- Occupational exposure to irritants
- Dietary Changes
- Lack of exercise
What triggers asthma symptoms?
Asthma triggers also vary between people. The most common triggers are:
- Colds and flu (especially in children)
- Pollens, moulds and grasses
- Animal hair and dander (skin flakes)
- Dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Changes in air temperature and weather
- Certain drugs (e.g. aspirin and some blood pressure medications)
- Some chemicals, strong smells and aerosol sprays (e.g. perfume)
- Some foods and food preservatives, flavorings and colorings
- Some occupations
- Some emotions (e.g. stress), Exercise (this can be managed)
Myths about asthma
- It is contagious
- It cannot be controlled
- Asthma medicines are addictive
Asthma emergency management:
FIRST AID FOR ASTHMA (RULE OF 5)
- Sit the patient upright or learning forward. Try to reduce the anxiety by reassurance.
- Give 1 puff of reliever (Salbutamol) inhaler- Ex. Azmasol into spacer and after giving the puff then breathe in and out for 5 times into spacer.
- Take 5 puffs one after another in same way (Shake your inhaler before each spray.
- Wait 5 minutes for the response, if no, take another 5 puffs and continue for 5 times.
- If no response, start to move to the health care facility where oxygen and nebulization is available. Keep giving 5 puffs every 5 minutes interval until health care facility is available or patient improves.
Know your Drugs:
Three kinds of asthma medicines:
Preventers (anti-inflammatory medicines) are medicines that reduce or reverse the inflammation in the airways, which is characteristic of asthma. These medicines also prevent the initiation of inflammation after exposure to trigger factors. Thereby they prevent asthma episode. Corticosteroids (inhaled and oral), montelukast etc. are anti-inflammatory medicines known as preventers. Preventer is the key of controlling your asthma.
Relievers (bronchodilators) are medicines that relax smooth muscles that have tightened around the airways. By this they relieve asthma symptoms. Short active beta-2-agonists, short acting xanthenes (e.g. aminophylline) and anticholinergics (e.g. ipratropium) are bronchodilators or relievers.
Protectors (symptom controllers) are long acting bronchodilator medicines with weak anti inflammatory properties, which prevent recurrence of attacks particularly nocturnal symptoms. Long acting ß2-agonists (e.g. Salmeterol, Formoterol etc.)