Help I can’t breathe!!!- Things you should know about asthma By Dr Tomiwa Adesina

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long term) disease of the lung where the structures in the lung and the airways become inflamed. It is therefore life threatening.

What causes an asthma attack?

Now there are factors in our environment that influences an asthmatic attack. These are called triggers or allergens. Since the lungs are chronically inflamed, these triggers make it worse. The airways of the lungs become tighter and simultaneously, extra mucus is being produced in the body clogging up the lungs. All these culminates and results into obstruction of the lungs airways and wheezing (the whistling sound you hear while trying to breathe) occurs.

How common is Asthma?

About 130 million worldwide are affected. In childhood, it is commoner in boys than girls, the rate in adolescence while it is more common in females than males in adulthood.

It is more common in industrialized countries like Canada, England, Australia, Germany e.t.c.

What causes Asthma?

The cause of Asthma exactly is unknown, but researchers have come to believe that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors (allergens). In other words, Asthma is a disease that tend run in families.

Genetic factors are

  • Atopy: a hereditary allergic reaction which symptoms are produced upon inhalation of an environmental trigger.
  • Family history: A positive family history of asthma will predispose an individual to having it
  • Gender
  • Age: More common in childhood

Common environmental allergens are :

  • Air pollution
  • Poor ventilation
  • Exercise
  • Cockroaches
  • Pets (urine, feces, hair, fur)
  • Pollen
  • Cold air
  • Mold
  • Respiratory infections
  • Emotions such as Stress, Depression, Anxiety
  • Some medications e g Aspirin
  • Diet e.g. high salt diet

How is Asthma treated?

There is really no cure for Asthma but controlling the triggers is the aim for treating it. Survival rates increase as one recognizes his peculiar triggers and avoids them.

One must be able to recognize when he/she is about to experience an attack and seek appropriate medical attention.

Also, adequate medical attention during an asthma attack and proficient use of inhalers as directed by a medical practitioner helps in protecting the asthma patient.

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