Asthmatic persons don’t outgrow the disorder – Expert
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways and it involves complex interaction between cells resulting in the inability of the lungs to let in or let out air from the bronchioles to the lungs. So, during an asthmatic attack, one has hyper responsiveness characterised by inflammation of the airways and there is an increase in mucus production which makes it difficult for the person to breathe in air and breathe well.
What are the triggers of asthma?
There are a lot of things that can trigger asthma. Factors like allergens such as pollen, mould, dustmites, animal furs, cockroaches and so on can trigger an asthmatic attack on a person who is asthmatic. There are also occupational exposures for instance, people that work in places where a lot of chemicals are used also predisposes them to asthmatic attacks. Then, there are also viral respiratory tract infections that can also cause an attack. Then, there are attacks that can be induced by exercise. So, asthmatics should be careful undergoing an exercise to avoid having an attack, especially if the person is predisposed to asthma. Also, emotions like anxiety and stress can also trigger an attack. Then, an exposure to irritants such as very strong odours like insecticides and also environmental exposures such as weather changes and extremes of temperature. For example, we are going through a cold season and so cold can trigger it.
What are the symptoms?
Most symptoms that can be seen in an asthmatic attack is a persistent cough which is usually at night. There is also difficulty in breathing which is called dyspnoea and this is usually associated with wheezing which is as a result of the narrowing of the airways. Chest tightness is also a symptom. So, most times when a person has those symptoms, the person will have to go to the health facility.
How is it diagnosed?
It depends. There is a diagnosis for children and one for adults. For children, they cannot really express themselves so, for them, when they have a recurrent cough or recurrent breathlessness, it is important for the parents to take them to the hospital, especially if the cough is associated with wheezing. As for adults, some tests can be carried out but for the children, the tests cannot be done on them. So, for the children, once they present with rubbing of the eyes and the nose, increased mucus production alongside with the wheezing, coughing and breathlessness which resolves with the use of bronchodilators at the health facility, a diagnosis of asthma is made . For the adults, tests such as the pulmonary function test can be carried out which determines the degree of airway obstruction and this involves the use of the spirometer or the peak flow metre. These are some of the tools used in diagnosing in adults.
What are the risk factors?
Genetic predisposition is one of them. For some people, asthma runs in their family but sometimes, asthma can skip a generation. So, one may wonder why a person has asthma, whereas the person’s parents did not and this tends to happen a lot. Then, there is the adult onset where people that did not have it as children suddenly have it. It could be as a result of lifestyle the person’s living or work environment. In terms of environment, there are practices that people indulge in eg staying in places where they inhale a lot of smoke, cooking and frying in a poorly ventilated room, frequent exposure to very strong chemicals etc, all these can cause an adult onset asthma especially in those that have never been diagnosed with it.
Can asthma be cured?
I don’t believe it can be cured. Once one has it, one has to keep on managing it by taking medications and preventing any form of assault on the system that could trigger an attack.
How is it managed?
There are drugs that can be used in managing it. In children, once they present with symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing; in the more severe cases, they are given a steroid and are nebulized to stabilize them. Steroids, bronchodilators, anticholinergics and anti-inflammatory agents can be used to manage it. For adults , it is the same management but most times, the children use nebulisers because they cannot really use inhalers. The nebulisers distribute air straight to the lungs, once it is inhaled.
Can asthma be prevented?
Well, one can try to reduce the pre-disposing factors such as the allergens or things that can trigger it. So, one can try to reduce exposure to those irritants. One can also try to reduce the frequency of attacks when there are extreme temperatures and also exercise.
Can asthma lead to death?
Yes, one can die from it but it is not very common. So, people are generally advised once diagnosed to adhere to medications and make positive lifestyle changes in addition to proper management. For example, in children, once they start presenting with symptoms such as persistent coughing, breathlessness, rubbing of nose, they need to go to the health facility because the longer one waits, the more damage is being done and the longer it will take for the children to recover and the more life threatening. So, once they start presenting, they need to go to the clinic and once nebulized and managed properly , the child can recover quick. So, once one takes control of the situation, it can be managed very well.
What ages are prone to it?
Well, children under five are prone to have it, but children that have it from birth, once they get to adolescence, the frequency reduces because, then, their own body starts making steroids so, it helps to reduce the frequency of attacks. So, during those times, people might think it has gone only for it to reoccur later.
What are the myths and misconceptions about asthma?
There is this misconception that peoplecan outgrow asthma but one cannot really outgrow asthma. Once the person has it, the person has it. It is just left to be managed. Then, there are some people that might get older and believe that they do not have it anymore but that is not the case. The only thing is that the frequency has been reduced.
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