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What is asthma?

Asthma is a long lasting inflammation (swelling) of the airway. The inflammation causes the airway to become swollen. Mucous is produced and gathers in airway. Also tightening of muscles around airway causes more narrowing. This narrowing makes it harder for air to pass through.

When should you suspect asthma?

  • Recurrent wheezing attacks.
  • Upsetting cough at night.
  • Shortness of breath
  • After exercise, suffer from cough or wheezing.
  • After being exposed to airborne allergens, pollutants or irritating factors suffer from wheezing, cough or chest tightness.
  • If it takes more than 10 days for cold to clear up, or if it “goes onto the chest”.
  • If bronchodilators or corticosteroids are used and symptoms improve.
  • If there is a family history for Asthma or Allergic Rhinitis.
  • If your symptoms are related to exposure to substances at your place of work

What causes an asthma attack?

  • Below are a list of things that can precipitate asthma. These include-
  • Allergens-Food
  • Dust mite
  • Cockroaches
  • Animal dander
  • Fungal mould
  • Irritants-Smoke
  • Strong smell
  • Cold exposure
  • Pollution
  • Emotional stress
  • Exercise
  • Drugs like aspirin

How is asthma diagnosed?

Only your doctor can decide if your breathing problems are related to asthma based on your history, symptoms, physical examination, chest x-ray, and spirometry test.

Managing asthma

Environmental control measure-

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you do not smoke, avoid places where other people smoke.
  • Keep pets away from fabric-covered furniture (especially your bed)
  • Avoid carpets and stuffed toys.
  • Prevent mould by repairing leaks and moisture areas.
  • Frequently wash bed sheets, pillowcases and blankets in hot water.
  • Wear a mask when vacuuming and replace vacuum bags often.
  • Open a window when you use household cleaners or cook to allow fresh air into the house or apartment.
  • Vent furnaces, electrical ranges, space heaters, and gas, wood and coal stoves to the outside.

Medications

Controller medications: - These are long term medications to keep your asthma under control and prevent flare-ups. In most cases, this medication is taken once or twice daily to manage asthma. It is important to take your controller medication as prescribed by your doctor, even when you don’t have symptoms.

Reliever medications: - When you have an asthma flare-up, reliever or rescue medications provide temporary relief

Have a written asthma action plan

Compliance with medication and regular follow-up with your health care provider will not only help control your symptoms but will also keep your asthma more manageable overall.