Sunday, January 17, 2010

Children are more vulnerable to Asthma attack

"Too much of cleanliness is not good for health” - Dr. Mahesh, Associate Professor, JSS Hospital
Asthma is a common chronic disease which causes inflammation in the airways through which we breathe. When one has asthma, the airways tend to become red, swollen along with tightening of muscles. Mucus (a sticky substance) is also produced in larger airways, clogging them and decreasing the amount of air flowing to the lung making it hard to breathe. In the background of appropriate genetic and environmental influences, a defective immune system develops which is the main culprit in asthma.
Asthma occurs due to allergy and is triggered by allergens either from inside the house or outside. Common triggers inside the house are House dust mites, Cockroaches, Mosquito scales (parts of dead mosquito), Fungi and outside the house pollens of weeds like Parthenium, grasses, shrubs and trees.
Environmental pollutants especially diesel exhaust can potentiate allergens manifold. Indoor chemicals especially mosquito liquidators, mats or coils have similar effects. Allergy can occur in various parts of the body including nose, eyes, lungs or skin.
If a person has cough or cold without fever or sneezing early in the morning or on exposure to triggers like dust it is confirmatory they have allergy in the nose. Many cases of asthma are preceded by nasal allergies with symptoms like watering from the nose, nasal blockage, itching in the nose or sneezing.
What is crucial to know is that with appropriate treatment a significant proportion of asthma can be prevented.
Common symptoms include • Wheezing and cough which can be more at night • Tightness in chest • Breathlessness while exercising • Feeling tired easily • Chest tightness. Other symptoms of allergy may be noted like • Itchy throat • Sinus, heaviness with or without headaches and sometimes associated with infections when there may be change in mucus colour, amount or thickness.
Asthma in some cases can be very severe with patients being unable to breathe, talk, sleep eat or drink. If not treated on an emergency basis, the disease can be life-threatening.
Several health conditions make asthma more difficult to manage like psychological stress, sinus infections, acid reflux disease and sleep apnea.
All people who have these symptoms might not have asthma. A proper medical history, physical exam and lung function test can confirm the diagnosis of asthma. A chest X-ray is done to rule out diseases that can mimic asthma.
Asthma is also a hereditary disease. It can affect people of all ages at any time, but most often starts in childhood. To prevent an attack of asthma it is necessary to undergo a regular health check-up in all the seasons with a lung function test and one should not wait for symptoms. Asthma is much more common in western countries like Europe and America than in countries like India. Nearly 6% of children in Mysore suffer from asthma while it is around 20% in Bangalore.
Our immune system needs to be engaged with non-disease causing bacteria for its proper functioning. Too much or too frequent use of antiseptics in the house can destroy these bacteria. Bacteria present in our gut, especially in the first year of life, also has an important role in the maturation of our immune system and are also a source of some important nutrients for us. Fermented foods are beneficial, especially lactobacilli in the curds, which when consumed during pregnancy and breast-feeding is shown to protect against allergies in the child.
Asthma is a long-term disease, which can’t be easily cured.
• Quit smoking
• Maintain good lung function by frequent monitoring and use of appropriate medicines
• Get good sleep
• Get regular health checkup
• Control of obesity, diet, physical fitness is important
• Avoid factors that worsen asthma
• Take medicines properly
• Do not take cough medicine and non-prescription inhalers
• Wear a mask or scarf over mouth when exercising in cold weather
• Don’t discontinue medicine until doctors advise you.
Environmental change also reduces asthma attack:
• Avoid pets with fur or feathers.
• Wear a mask while cleaning the house.
• Cover the mattress, pillows in dust proof covers and wash weekly once in hot water.
• Use air conditioner and maintain low humidity in house.
Medicines for Asthma
Inhaler: Asthma medicines can be taken in pill form, but most are taken using a device called an inhaler. This allows the medicine to go directly to lungs.
Monitoring of Asthma
Peak flow meter: The basic measurement of asthma is done through a small device, peak flow meter. When a person blows into this device it checks how well the air moves out of lungs showing a score or peak flow number. It also measures how forcefully one can breathe out during an attack.
Spirometer: It is a computerised device used to check how much air is exhaled and how forcefully the patient can breathe out.
Oximeter: A pulse oximeter uses a painless probe. It is placed on fingertip to measure the amount of oxygen in bloodstream.
Key points
• Asthma patients can do any type of physical activities.
• You can lead normal life.
• Always use inhaled medicines. • You can achieve all your goals.
• Allergy is not a spreading disease and no amount of close contact will spread the disease.
[ Wednesday 4th February 2009]

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