In simple words, asthma is defined as a chronic (long-term) disease in which there is narrowing of the airways and obstruction to the airflow occurs due to an allergic reaction when exposed to substances called allergens. These allergens can include common household dust, animal danders, pollens from flowers, dust mites, molds, etc.
Once exposed by inhaling these allergens they trigger a chain of events in the airways leading to swelling of the airways due to collection of fluid within them. Due to swelling the airways get narrow and decrease the passage of air. The patient starts to gasp for air. There is also increased mucus secretion in the airways adding to the problem.
How to Identify an Asthmatic Attack?
Episodic symptoms of airflow obstruction are present. The patient leans forward a typical presentation of asthmatic attack. Airflow obstruction or symptoms are at least partially reversible. Severe wheezing sounds are present similar to sounds heard when air passing through the pipe is blocked, that is the characteristic voice.
What Are the Causes of Asthma?
The important causes of an asthmatic attack include,
- Environmental allergens (house dust mites, animal allergens, especially cat, dog, cockroach, and fungi).
- Viral respiratory tract infections or common colds.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease or dyspepsia or heartburn due to excessive acidity.
- Chronic sinusitis, rhinitis and blocked nose.
- Aspirin and other painkillers can induce an attack.
- Use of some antihypertensive medications like Propranolol.
- Environmental pollution, car pollution, tobacco smoking, burning, strong perfumes, paints, etc.
- Occupational exposure.
- Household sprays, mosquito repellants and paint fumes.
- Insects, plants, latex, gums, wood dust and chemicals like diisocyanates and anhydrides are associated with occupational asthma.
- Emotional and stress factors.
- Prenatal factors like premature birth, increased maternal age at the time of birth and smoking during pregnancy.
- Exposure to cold and dry air.
How to Prevent Asthma?
- Efforts should focus on the home where 30% to 60% of time is spent. Should clean and dust homes regularly. If a patient cannot avoid vacuuming, he or she should use a face mask or a double bagged vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air filter.
- If possible live on the higher floors where there is less dust, mold and also less cockroaches. Control cockroaches by using exterminators. Keep food out of the bedroom and never leave the food open.
- Active smoking and exposure to passive smoking must be avoided.
- Room ozonizers may be harmful to asthmatics. Using dense filtering materials over heating and cooling duct vents.
- Washing cats and dogs at least twice weekly.
- Control molds by keeping carpets dry and clean, removing old wall papers, cleaning with bleaching products and storing wood indoors.
- To avoid pollens in home use high efficiency air conditioners, particulate air filters in cars and homes, staying inside during midday and afternoon when pollen counts are very high, wearing a face mask when mowing a lawn.
What Is the Medical Therapy for Asthma?
Medical therapy is the mainstay management of this disease.
- Contact a general practitioner or a pulmonologist if a severe attack of asthma occurs for a period of more than 15 minutes.
- Immediate medication and oxygenation is very important in the management of sudden attacks. Never delay treatment, immediately attend the emergency department.
- To prevent the occurrence of such serious attacks your doctor will prescribe you special inhalers that deliver drugs directly to airways thereby terminating attacks and preventing future outbreaks.
This disease is easily manageable and its medical therapy has undergone great developments in the recent decades. You do not have to live with this problem when you can have a normal life. You just need to make an initiative.
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