Asthma

AsthmaAsthma is a chronic lung disease that affect millions of people worldwide. Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the airways with intermittent bronchospasm making the airways smaller and therefore making it more difficult for air to move in and out of the lung.

Q: What are the symptoms of asthma?
A: Symptoms of asthma include one or more of the following:

  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Q: What can trigger asthma?
A: Asthma symptoms can be triggered by several factors, including :

  • Allergens (including pollens, molds, animal dander, house dust mites, cockroaches, among others).
  • Irritants (including tobacco smoke, chemicals, strong odors or sprays, or occupational exposure).
  • Weather changes (including changes in temperature, humidity, barometric pressure or strong winds).
  • Viral airway infections.
  • Exercise.
  • Reflux disease (Stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus).
  • Medications.
  • Emotional anxiety though its contribution to fatigue.

Asthma Q: How is asthma treated?
A: Asthma requires continuous management and appropriate treatment.
Asthma treatment has four main components :

  • The use of objective measure of lung function to assess the severity of asthma and to monitor the course of treatment.
  • Environmental control measures to avoid or eliminate factors that trigger asthma symptoms or flare-ups.
  • Medication therapy for long-term management to prevent airway inflammation as well as therapy to manage asthma flare-ups.
  • Patient education about the nature of this chronic disease.
  • Following the recommendations of your doctor will result in normal breathing, normal physical activity, resolution of night-time symptoms, & minimizing the need for emergency room visits or hospitalizations.

Q: What medications can be used to treat asthma?
A: Treatment of asthma includes using proper medications to prevent and control asthma symptoms and to reduce airway inflammation. Those medications are categorized into two general classes, quick-relief and long-term control medications. Quick-relief medications that are used to provide temporary relief of symptoms ( examples are Ventolin, Atrovent, or short-term corticosteroids ).
Long-term control medications are taken daily to control the airway inflammation. This class includes :

  • Inhaled corticosteroids, which are the most effective long-term therapy available for asthma. They are well tolerated and safe at recommended dosages.
  • Cromolyn or Nedocromil , which are less effective than inhaled steroids and are very safe.
  • Leukotriene modifiers. They are generally safe, but are less effective than inhaled corticosteroids.
  • Inhaled long-acting beta 2-agonists, which are an add on medications. They are not used alone.
  • Methylxanthines (Theophylline) provide mild to moderate dilation of the airways and may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Omalizumab, known as anti-IgE, can be used for patients with moderate to severe persistent allergic asthma.
Make sure you ask your doctor on the appropriate use and dosage of your prescribed medications.

It is important to keep a close follow-up with your doctor for better controlling the individual asthma. Better follow-up and compliance by a patient with asthma is always associated with a better outcome of asthma.

Q: What is an asthma attack?
A: Any time an individual have asthma symptoms, he is considered to have an attack. Some attacks end quickly. Others are serious.
An attack is severe if:

  • The individual has trouble breathing, walking or talking.
  • Lips or fingernails turn blue or gray.
  • These symptoms get worse even after taking medication.
If these things happen, immediately call an ambulance and give the rescue medications to the affected person.

Q: Will my asthma ever go away?
A: In adults, a study done in Sweden found that remission of asthma was about 6% in 10 years period. In this study, 22% of individuals with suspected asthma had remission during the same time period. When including these individuals as having asthma, the annual remission rate would be about 1%. However, those who have remission of their asthma are those with a milder disease and who stopped smoking.

Asthma Q: What about childhood asthma?
A: Asthma is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood, affecting 9 million children in the United States alone.
Approximately 70% of children with asthma develop the symptoms of asthma before the age of 5.
Children with asthma cough, wheeze, experience chest tightness and shortness of breath. Many parents do not realize that a chronic cough may be the only symptom of asthma and that a child does not have to wheeze to have asthma.
The most common form of asthma among children is allergic asthma, where the child react to particles in the air inside or outside home.
Children who are most at risk to develop asthma include:

  • Children whose immune systems are not fully developed.
  • Infants and young children who wheeze with viral upper respiratory infections.
  • Allergies. The relationship between asthma and allergies is very strong. If your child has allergies, be on the alert for potential signs of childhood asthma
  • A family history of asthma and/or allergy
  • Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and allergens

Q: Can i prevented asthma from occurring to my child?
A: Many studies aimed at decreasing or delaying the occurrence of allergies in children with family history of allergies. Below are some advices to help reducing the risk of your child developing asthma:

  1. Maternal smoking, active or passive, during pregnancy is associated with increased wheezing during infancy. Exposing children to secondhand smoke in the home has also been shown to increase the development of asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses. Therefore, it is extremely important that infants not be exposed to tobacco smoke before or after they are born.
  2. Breast feeding for the recommended time period of at least 6 months strengthens children's immune systems, which can be helpful in avoiding respiratory infections, and consequently, asthma.
  3. Other specific recommendations for newborns who are at very high risk include:
    • Consumption of Probiotics by mothers during last trimester of pregnancy and breast-feeding.
    • Solid foods should not be introduced to high-risk infants until 6 months of age.
    • Consumption of dairy products should be delayed until 1 year, eggs until 2 years, and peanuts, nuts, and fish until 3 years of age.
    • Diets rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids should be encouraged during the second half of pregnancy.
    • Reducing contact with major environmental allergens is shown to reduce development of environmental allergies including asthma. This is especially for House dust mites. However, recent medical data have suspected such relationship.

(For the proper measures on house dust mite control, Please see the section on controlling indoor allergens)