On the first Tuesday in May, World Asthma day is celebrated all over the world to bring more awareness to asthma and inform people about this chronic disease and its long-term management. It was organized by Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) which was founded by the World Health Organization in 1993.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a chronic health condition that arises due to increased responsiveness of the airway to a range of stimuli leading to narrowing of the airway. It usually presents with cough, shortness of breath, wheeze and chest tightness usually at night or early in the morning which are reversible either spontaneously or with treatment. Asthma affects both children and adults.
BURDEN OF ASTHMA
About 262 million people worldwide were affected by Asthma in 2019 and there were 455,000 asthma related deaths in the same year. It is often misdiagnosed and poorly managed in middle to low income countries thus leading to an increase in morbidity and mortality. A study in 2019 showed that the number of persons with clinical asthma in Nigeria is about 13million people, likely to be the highest in Africa.
CAUSES OF ASTHMA
There is no single, direct cause of Asthma. It has however been linked to a myriad of factors. They include but not limited to:
- Family history: Chances of developing asthma increases if other family members have the condition especially in first degree relatives like a parent or sibling.
- Asthma is more likely if there is presence of other allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis, eczema, etc.
- Asthma is more common in urban areas due to lifestyle factors.
- Obesity in both children and adults has been found to increase risk of asthma
- Exposure to a range of irritants and allergens in the environment has been found to increase development of asthma. These allergens include tobacco smoke, dust, mites, occupational chemicals, moulds, etc.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Asthma is a chronic health condition that cannot be cured. However it can be properly managed with inhaled medications. The following are tips for successful asthma care for all:
- Know and avoid your triggers. Triggers often include organophosphates (sniper), household dust, cold, perfumes etc.
- Know the warning signs of an attack; Dry cough, wheeze
- Use asthma medications as prescribed. Proper inhaler technique is important so as to deliver the required dose into the airway.
- Create an asthma care plan. It is important to document the symptoms, frequency of occurrence and also frequency of inhaler use so as to help the healthcare provider on continuous management and to know when to increase medications or if the asthma is well controlled.
- Follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
People with asthma and their families need education to understand more about their asthma, their treatment, triggers to avoid, and how to manage their symptoms at home. It is also important to raise community awareness to reduce the myths and stigma associated with asthma in some settings. Furthermore, reducing tobacco smoke exposure is important for both primary prevention of asthma and disease management.
To learn how to raise awareness about asthma, visit GINA’s website at www.ginasthma.org