World Asthma Day is observed on May 5, 2020, is an annual event organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to raise awareness about asthma and its management across the globe. Every year it is observed on the first Tuesday of May towards creating awareness about this chronic disease and to encourage asthmatics to successfully deal with it aided by medication and lifestyle changes. This year’s theme is “Enough Asthma Deaths” and with the whole world in the grip of COVID-19 Pandemic, the prime goal of the health organisation is to safeguard asthma patients from COVID-19 and to minimise the impact of this deadly SARS-CoV-2 Virus, on those already battling respiratory issues.
Asthma is one of the chronic diseases affecting the respiratory organs which leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, coughing, discomfort in chest and breathing difficulty. It is a major non-communicable disease and has a significant impact on the quality of life. Globally 300 million people have asthma and it is estimated that by 2025 another 100 million people would be affected. It is one of the most common chronic disease affecting the children, though it cannot be completely cured but can be managed appropriately. Asthma-related complications and mortality are higher in adults. Also Read: World Asthma Day: 5 Ways To Manage Asthma In Summer
Asthma is a chronic condition involving the airways in the lungs, the passages allowing air to enter in and out of the lungs. In a person suffering from asthma, the airways are inflamed and narrowed and secrete mucus, making it difficult to breathe which results in coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
To get a better insight about the condition it is important to know what happens as you breathe. Normally, while breathing air goes via the nose and down into the throat, into the airways leading it to the lungs. There are a lot of small air passages in the lungs which aids to deliver oxygen from the air into the bloodstream. The symptoms of asthma develop when the lining of the airways swell and the mucus around it tightens. Excess mucus secretions fill the airways reducing the amount of air that passes through the lungs. Also Read: Asthma: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Causes Of Asthma
There are several factors that can trigger an asthma attack which is different from person to person and include:
Hereditary - if any one of the parent has asthma then you are prone to get it.
Viral Infections- individual with a history of viral infections during childhood are at increased risk of developing the condition.
Allergen Exposure- constant exposure with allergens such as pollen, dust, mites, mold spores, pet dander or waste materials of cockroach and irritants may increase the risk of asthma.
Respiratory infections like the common cold and the flu.
Cold air and changes in temperature and humidity.
Air pollutants like smoke.
Mental stress and strong emotions like anxiety, crying or laughter.
Usage of certain medications like beta-blockers, aspirin and ibuprofen.
Preservatives added to foods and beverages.
GERD can trigger an asthma attack, it is a condition where the stomach acids flow back up into the throat.
There are certain risk factors that are believed to increase the incidence of developing asthma which include:
Blood relation (like parent or sibling) with asthma
Being allergic to other condition including dermatitis or hay fever
Exposure to passive smoking and other pollutants
Exposure to chemicals used in industries, farming, hair styling and manufacturing units.
Symptoms Of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma vary from person to person and a person may have rare attacks at certain times like during exercising or may show symptoms at all the time. Some of the signs and symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Difficulty to sleep due to wheezing or coughing
Wheezing sound while exhaling
Severe episodes of coughing and wheezing aggravated by respiratory infections or viral attacks like a cold or the flu
Signs that asthma is severe include:
The usual symptoms are more recurrent and worrisome
Experiencing increasing difficulty to breathe even at rest
The need to use inhaler quite often
COVID-19 And Asthma
People suffering from asthma are at increased risk of getting COVID-19, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus infect the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) which can trigger the asthma attack and could lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory ailments. The best possible way to avoid the risk of COVID-19 is to follow the preventive measures which include:
Asthmatic patients should continue taking their current medications like inhalers and other prescription drugs.
Never discontinue the medications or change the treatment plan without consulting to your physician.
Talk to your physician via telecommunication or online consultation regarding your queries related to COVID-19.
Stock up your essential supplies and medications.
Stay away from asthma triggers.
Never let stress take a toll over your health, as stress is one of the triggers for an asthma attack. Cope up with stress by practising yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
Follow the respiratory etiquettes to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Types Of Asthma
Generally, asthma can affect you at any age, but more common in people under the age of 40. The risk increases if a person has a family history of asthma, allergies or eczema.
It is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that is distinguished with bronchial hyperactivity and respiratory obstructions.
It is an older term, less used and now commonly known as acute severe asthma. It denotes to an asthma attack that does not get better to treatment with bronchodilators. The episode last for several minutes or may extend to hours and requires immediate medical care.
Asthma In Children
Children have smaller airways than adults which makes asthma attacks to be more severe. Some of the symptoms to look for in children includes:
Frequent episodes of coughing which may develop while playing, at night or laughing
Poor stamina during activity
Rapid breathing pattern
Whistling sound when breathing in or out
Shortness of breath
Fatigue and tiredness
Exercise-induced asthma happens during physical activity, as a result of breathing dry air which makes the airways narrow. It is quite common in all, even for those who don’t have asthma.
Certain things that trigger allergies such as dust, pollen and pet dander can cause asthma attacks.
This type of asthma usually flare in extreme climatic conditions like extreme heat of the summer months or the cold of winter.
It happens in people who generally work with chemical fumes, dust or any other irritating substances in the air.
This type is a chronic severe form which is characterised by high levels of white blood cells called eosinophil and affects people between 35 and 50 years of age.
In this type of asthma symptoms get aggravated only at night.
This is slightly different from all types of asthma, as the only symptoms observed in this kind is a persistent cough.
Diagnosis Of Asthma
The doctors will generally do a complete physical examination and collect a thorough medical history and also ask about the signs and symptoms. Usually, the patient is referred to a pulmonologist for further evaluation.
The pulmonologist will recommend taking certain tests and blood work to determine the functioning of the lungs which include:
This is a test which determines if the bronchial tubes are narrowed by checking the amount of air a person can exhale after a deep breath and how fast he can breathe out.
A peak flow meter is a device that measures the capacity of the breathing pattern. Lower readings are a sign that the lungs are not working effectively and asthma may be very severe.
Lung Function Test
Lung function tests are done before and after taking a medication called a bronchodilator to open airways, if the working of the lungs improve after usage of the medication then it is most likely you have asthma.
Other Diagnostics Test Include
This test is also known as an asthma trigger, the substance (methacholine) when inhaled causes mild narrowing of the airways. If a person reacts to methacholine, then he is most likely to have asthma. This test is done if the initial lung test is normal.
A chest X-ray and computerised tomography scan (CT) of the lungs and nose cavities helps to identify any infection or abnormalities which worsens the breathing problems.
It is a blood work or skin test done to identify the allergic reactions to pets, dust, mold and pollen. Once the triggering allergens are identified, the patient is put on immunotherapy.
This is a test which evaluates for the presence of white blood cells (eosinophilia) in the salvia and mucus from the discharge expelled while coughing. Eosinophil is present in the sample when the symptoms of asthma develop.
The doctors generally perform certain proactive testing for exercise and cold-induced asthma. The doctors evaluate airway obstruction before and after the strenuous physical activity or after taking several breaths of cold air.
The doctors recommend the right mode of treatment required for the patients based on the type of asthma, age and other triggers. The treatment plan of asthma is categorised into
- Breathing exercise therapy
- Rescue or first aid
- Long-term asthma medications
Breathing Exercise Therapy
Breathing exercise is the most effective alternative therapies for asthmatic patients. Exercise helps the individual to get a supply of air into and out of the lungs. Regular breathing exercise may help to improve the lung capacity and lessen the symptoms.
Rescue Or First Aid
These are prescriptions medications that have to be used during an asthma attack and offer immediate relief and help the patient to breathe. Rescue inhalers and nebulizers with medicine are inhaled deep into the lungs to improve the breathing pattern.
Bronchodilators are prescribed to relax the tightened muscles in the lungs.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are given to reduce the inflammation in the lungs and help in breathing.
If your family member is having an asthma attack, the first thing to do is to make them sit upright and help them use inhaler or nebulizer, two to six puffs would help to alleviate the symptoms. If the symptoms continue for more than 20 minutes, seek immediate medical care.
The doctors prescribe certain medications that should be taken on a regular basis to avert the symptoms, together with inhalers and nebulizers.
Some of the effective precautionary measures one can take to prevent asthma attacks include:
Stay away from chemicals, products or fragrance that have caused breathing difficulty previously.
Limit Exposure To Allergens
Once you have identified the allergens like dust or mold that had aggravated an asthma attack it is best to stay away from allergens.
Allergen immunotherapy is a treatment mode, where regular immunotherapy shots are given that makes the body less sensitive to triggers.
Management Of Asthma
Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet promote your overall well-being, which may lessen the risk of asthma attacks. Include a whole lot of fresh fruits and vegetables abundant in vitamins and minerals which helps to stimulate the lung function. Several studies have also shown that cutting down processed foods helps to lower the risk of an asthma attack. Also Read: A Good Lot of Foods for AsthmaA Good Lot of Foods for Asthma
Individuals who are overweight and obese, the symptoms of asthma worsens. Hence maintaining ideal body weight is important for the vital organs like heart, lungs, kidney and joints to function well.
Smoking and nicotine from a cigarette are harmful irritants that can trigger an asthma attack and also elevates the risk of COPD.
Physical activity can trigger an asthma attack, however, regular exercise may eventually lower the risk of breathing difficulties. Aerobic activity facilitates to strengthen the lungs power and improve breathing pattern.
Stress is one of the triggers for asthma and it can also make breathing difficult. Hence find ways to beat stress and practice yoga, meditation and other relaxing techniques.
According to the principle of Ayurvedic medicine, the underlying cause for asthma is due to increased kapha dosha in the stomach, from where kapha moves into the lungs, trachea and bronchi. Excess kapha secretions hinders the natural flow of air which lead to spasm in bronchi that result in wheezing and asthma. Ayurvedic home remedies aim to clear out the kapha blocked in the lungs. Also Read: Medicines And Mother Nature Can Help Combat Asthma
Try some of these herbal remedies to ease the symptoms of asthma
Ginger and Garlic Cloves:
Ginger and garlic are the highly valued herbs that are significant to reduce the inflammation in the lungs. Drink ginger tea blended with 2-3 crushed pods of garlic to clear the kapha accumulation in the airways, thereby averting the risk of asthmatic attacks.
The potent anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties in turmeric is effective in lessening the symptoms of asthma. Curcumin the active compound in turmeric reduce inflammation and clear the obstruction in the airways. Take half a cup of milk, add ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder, boil for 5 minutes and drink this turmeric twice daily to get quick relief from asthma.
Cinnamon And Honey
Cinnamon and honey are time tested ayurvedic remedies that aids to clear the phlegm from the throat and bolsters the immune system. Take ¼ cup of water boil well, add one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and before drinking mix half a teaspoon of honey, drink this amazing concoction to get relieved from asthma symptoms.
Licorice, also known as mulethi in Hindi is heaped with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that assist in lowering inflammation in the airways. Drink half a cup of licorice tea regularly to manage the symptoms of asthma.