What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness characterized by periodic bouts of difficulty in breathing, coughing, chest tightness and wheezing. These symptoms are caused by an inflammatory process that results in narrowing of the lungs air passages hence restricting air supply.
The frequency of the bouts as well as their severity may vary from one individual to another.
Asthma can develop at any age. Although it is the most common chronic illness in children, it unfortunately goes un-diagnosed and un-treated in a vast majority of cases.
What causes Asthma?
Asthma is caused by a combination of several factors with the main factors being ones genetic predisposition and environmental exposure. The other factors include physical exercise, certain medication, cold weather, hormonal changes, certain foods & beverages and emotional stress.
The environmental triggers include inhaled irritants such as:
• Outdoor allergens e.g. mould, dust, flower/grass pollen
• Indoor allergens e.g. dust mite, pet dander
• Workplace chemical irritants e.g. formaldehyde, ammonia
• Air pollutants e.g. motor vehicles & factories
• Tobacco Smoke
Asthma is strongly co-related to an individuals’ immune system, it is therefore very common to find asthmatics also having other allergies including eczema & hives, allergic rhinitis and persistent nasal blockage.
How do you manage Asthma?
Asthma is not curable but it can be managed through symptom control and avoidance of future asthma attacks. This allows individuals to have a full productive life.
The main targets in asthma management are:
1. Early diagnosis by primary care physicians and referral of more severe cases to specialists.
2. Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers.
3. Taking medication as prescribed by a specialist and taking it correctly to enable good control hence avoid life-long complications.
4. Use of Inhaled therapy as the treatment of choice for delivering medicines for the relief and prevention of recurrent asthma.
5. Use of a metered dose inhaler with a spacer device for all children under the age of 18 years for adequate dosing of inhaled medication.
Childhood asthma when mild will very often resolve as a child grows up. Moderate to severe cases of asthma will however usually persist into adulthood.
• Over 339 million people suffer from Asthma globally.
• An estimated 383,000 deaths occurred in 2015 due to asthma complications. This is approximately 1000 people every single day.
• Over 80% of childhood asthma-related deaths occur in the low & middle income countries.
• An estimated 10% of Kenya’s population is living with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Of these, only 20% have their illness under control.
Risk factors in Kenya include urban setting, exposure to cigarette smoke, indoor air pollution especially from cooking with wood/charcoal, home dampness leading to mould and house dust mite.
If you suspect you or your child has asthma, don’t ignore it. Poorly controlled asthma can result in premature and avoidable death. Seek medical advice and begin to correctly manage the illness so as to improve the quality of life of those you love.