What Is Asthma?
- Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways in the lungs. Asthma can either be allergic (most common) or non-allergic.
- Allergic asthma is due to an allergic response known as a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction. People with asthma’s airways are hypersensitive to certain triggers. The allergic reaction causes narrowing of the small airways and leads to "air trapping" (known as an obstructive airway disease)
- There are different types of asthma- childhood onset asthma (usually before the age of 5), adult-onset asthma, exercise-induced asthma and aspirin induced asthma. Some asthma is known as seasonal asthma and occurs only at certain times of the year, usually with the changing of seasons such as during autumn or spring.
- Asthma is diagnosed with lung function tests. A spirometer or a PEFM (Peak Expiratory Flow Meter) is used in conjunction with a bronchodilator. The meter is used to assess your lung function before and after inhaling a fast-acting bronchodilator. A diagnosis of asthma is made when there is an improvement in lung function of more than 20% (PEFM) or more than 12%(when using a spirometer) after the bronchodilator is inhaled.
- Asthma is diagnosed when a patient has suggestive symptoms and a positive bronchodilator test.
What Are The Symptoms Of Asthma?
- Symptoms of asthma are typically a wheezy or "tight" chest, shortness of breath and recurrent or persistent coughing that is worse at night and early mornings. Coughing or tight chest are often also present after exercise.
- Exercise-induced asthma typically only produces symptoms after exercise.
What Are The Causes Of Asthma?
- Mostly asthma starts in childhood and is often outgrown in early adulthood. Some asthmatics may, however, need treatment lifelong.
- Asthma has a strong genetic component and is part of the so-called "atopic triad" in childhood which includes allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and asthma.
- Early insult to a child's lungs such as neonatal pneumonia or bronchitis may play a role in developing asthma later.
- People with asthma have individual triggers. These triggers are commonly sensitivities to house-dust mites, grass, pollen, animal dander, dairy, wheat, nuts and soy products. Chest infections, cold air or air pollution can also trigger an attack.
- Adult onset starts in the early twenties. There is speculation about possible causes; genetics, smoking and a history of allergies seem to play the biggest part. It affects females more than males.
- Asthma can be caused/ triggered due to any of the following reasons:
1. Airborne substances like pollen, dust mites, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste.
2. Respiratory infections such as common cold
3. Exercise-induced asthma
4. Cold air
5. Air pollutants like smoke
6. Certain medications including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen
7. Strong emotions, stress
8. Foods which contain Sulphites and preservatives
9. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Asthma is a combination of environmental and genetic factors, as many people live in same conditions. Still, some people get asthma and some don’t.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Asthma?
- Identify your asthma triggers and avoid them.
- Always cover yourself fully (especially chest, feet and ears) before going out in cold weather.
- Avoid exercises beyond your physical stamina. Do not over exert.
- Always wear pollution mask if you are staying in high pollution area.
- If asthma is hampering your day to day activities, pl. consult your doctor as he might change your medication.
- Wash your bed sheets and pillow covers every week in hot water to get rid of dust mites.
- Reduce stress.·
- Consult your general practitioner or paediatrician early if your child shows symptoms of asthma. Asthma can be potentially life-threatening, especially in an acute episode.
- Make sure your asthma is controlled. Follow-up with your doctor six months to review and adjust your treatment is necessary. If your asthma is well controlled, your doctor may consider tapering down your treatment.
- Consider doing an allergy test- blood or skin prick. If you have allergic asthma, it will be helpful to know what the triggers are and how to avoid them
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Asthma?
- Avoid pets.
- Remove carpets and soft toys from the room of your child as these accumulate dust, dust mites which trigger an asthma attack.
- Avoid dampness in the house. Let fresh air come in. Keep all areas of your house dry.
- Do not smoke, avoid being close to people who smoke.
- Avoid burning of incense (Pooja agarbatti) at home, since it triggers an asthma attack.
- Avoid going to kitchen when food is being cooked, especially frying etc.·
- Do not delay seeking treatment when you suspect to have a chest infection. Because your airways are hyper reactive, an infection can easily trigger an acute asthma attack.
- Do not leave your house without your reliever pump or allow your medication to run out. An acute episode can occur at any time and may be fatal.
- Do not smoke if you have asthma or smoke around your child who has asthma. Passive smoking's effects are just as harmful.
What Are The Best Foods For Asthma?
There are certain food items, which are commonly available in every household and are extremely effective in reducing the seriousness of asthma. Some best foods for asthma are given below:
- Garlic: Boiled in water, mixed with honey, it helps in reducing airway contraction.
- Mustard oil: Mix camphor in hot mustard oil and apply in on the chest, back and neck.
- Figs: Soak 3 pieces overnight in water and eat it empty stomach next day.
- Fresh Garlic: 2-3 cloves a day.
- Hot coffee.
- Eucalyptus Oil: It has decongestant properties. Add 2-3 drops of eucalyptus oil in the pot of hot boiling water and inhale the steam.
- Onions, Apples, carrots, melon, Avocados.
- Flax seeds.
What Are The Worst Foods For Asthma?
- Foods with preservatives added to them
- Wine, beer
- Eggs (for children, as some children are allergic to eggs)
- Excessive salt in food
- Oily, fatty foods
What Are The Medicines For Asthma?
- Asthma is treated according to severity, based on a symptom score.
- Inhaled short-acting bronchodilators are the first treatment approach. They are commonly known as reliever pumps and are used as needed for a tight chest. If reliever pumps are used more than twice a week, step up of medication is indicated and long-acting bronchodilators should be used.
- Inhaled corticosteroids are added on to bronchodilators if the asthma is not controlled or for maintenance therapy. Often inhalers contain both cortisone and bronchodilator in one, reducing the need to carry along more than one pump.
- Oral drugs like Leukotriene Receptor Analogues (LTRA) and Theophylline are added on if asthma is still uncontrolled.
- In acute uncontrolled episodes, short courses of oral steroids are given as an add-on. Underlying or aggravating factors such as bronchitis or pneumonia should be excluded and treated.
- Allergen immunotherapy can be considered but has not been well studied. Omalizumab, an IgE-immunoglobulin is currently only recommended for use in severe uncontrolled asthma.
What Are The Tips To Manage Asthma?
Having a nebuliser at home will be helpful for acute asthmatic episodes.