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What is Asthma?
Asthma is a common chronic lung disease in which the airways (bronchi) become
inflamed and are abnormally sensitive to certain triggers. Asthma can affect people
of all races and ages, and although there is no known cure, there are many ways to
control it. The symptoms of asthma include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing
There are two related changes that take place in the airways of a person with asthma. First, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen, and produces excess mucus. Second, the muscles around these over-sensitive airways start to spasm, causing them to constrict. These changes that cause the airways to narrow,
With proper asthma management, this can generally be reversed so that breathing
becomes, and stays, normal.
Things that can make asthma worse vary from person to person. They can be
organized into two groups: allergic triggers and non-allergic triggers.
The most common allergic triggers include animal allergens, dust mites, pollens,
moulds, cockroaches and sometimes food. Non-allergic triggers include tobacco
smoke, colds and chest infections, extreme temperatures and weather changes,
exercise, fumes, and even emotional responses such as stress, exciteme nt and fear.
ASA and other medications can also trigger asthma symptoms. TYPES OF ASTHMA
Asthma onset in children usually occurs before their fifth birthday.
The majority of children with asthma are sensitive to household allergens and irritants, and they can benefit from a smoke-free, dust-free and pet-free environment.
When someone has asthma, they usually have it for life. However, asthma usually
gets better as a child gets older and there are often periods where there are no
symptoms, such as during adolescence.
Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA)
EIA is characterized by symptoms that occur due to exercise. People with asthma
benefit from exercise because it increases their lung efficiency and their tolerance of
physical activity. Factors such as humidity, temperature, allergen levels, air pollution
and the type and duration of exercise can adversely affect a person with asthma.
Workouts that begin with a continuous, progressive warm up for at least 15 minutes
can help decrease asthma symptoms. If asthma is controlled properly and certain
precautions are taken, exercise will not usually cause any significant limitations to
physical activity. If asthma causes limitations in your ability to exercise, people
should see your physician since your asthma may not be managed as well as
Occupational asthma is caused by exposure to certain irritants in the workplace.
There are more than 200 substances including gases, dust particles and chemicals
that are known to cause asthma in the workplace. Adequate ventilation, proper
masks, protective clothing and changes in work practices, such as using different chemicals, can reduce the risk of developing occupational asthma.
Adult Onset Asthma
While many believe adult onset asthma to be rare, it actually accounts for 10 per
cent of all new asthma cases. Unlike childhood asthma, adults are less likely to react
to allergic triggers, and more likely to be affected by non-allergic triggers.
ASTHMA MONITORING AND TREATMENT
Peak Flow Meter
A peak flow meter is a fast, easy-to-use device that measures lung function. It is
used to measure the speed of air blown out of the lungs and can indicate how well a
person is responding to his or her medication, as well as indicate a worsening
Short-acting bronchodilators, or "relievers", are used to open the airways during an
asthma attack or when there are asthma symptoms, making it easier to breathe.
Everyone with asthma should carry a reliever medication with them always.
controllers work by reducing and controlling the swelling and
mucus production in the airways, making it easier for a person to breathe. These
include corticosteroids, leukotriene receptor antagonists and anti-allergics. These
medications must be taken regularly.
Controller medications also include long-acting bronchodilators, theophylline and
ipratropium, which are usually taken in conjunction with inhaled corticosteroids.
Tips for Asthma Control
• Individuals with asthma should identify their particular triggers, and
reduce exposure or avoid them whenever possible.
• It is important for those people with asthma, or their caregivers, to try to
• Individuals with asthma should follow their physician’s written asthma
action plan, which allows them to take more control of their condition.
• Asthma medication should be taken as prescribed by a physician.
• People with asthma and their caregivers must understand the warning
signs of an attack and always carry, or have quick access to, reliever medication.
• Individuals with asthma and their caregivers should regularly discuss
their symptoms with their doctor and health care providers, in addition to receiving proper asthma education in order to understand and better
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