Asthma is the most prevalent condition of the airways in the lungs in Spain. It affects more than 10% of the child population and more than 5% of adults, which makes it the most recurrent chronic disease in children, according to the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPARATE).
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What causes asthma?
Asthma is a reactive disease in response to external agents that cause inflammation in the bronchial area that makes breathing difficult.
According to explains the Network of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention“being exposed to elements in the environment such as mold or humidity, some allergens such as dust mites and secondhand tobacco smoke, has been linked to the onset of asthma.”
“Air pollution and viral infection of the lungs can also cause asthma, as well as the pollen that is so frequent at this time of year and also in summer,” adds the aforementioned agency.
For her part, the United States National Library of Medicine add the following triggers:
- Animals (pet dander or fur, also cockroaches).
- Dust mites.
- Certain medications (acetylsalicylic acid and other NSAIDs).
- Changes in the weather (most often cold weather).
- Chemicals in the air or in food.
- Respiratory infections, such as common cold.
- Strong emotions (stress).
Even duvet filling in people sensitive to bird feather protein can cause chronic breathing difficulties.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
It manifests, above all, with recurrent attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and coughing. The mayo clinic lists the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children.
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing.
- Coughing or wheezing that is made worse by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or flu.
How do you fight asthma?
Being a reactive disease, the cure is never absolute but must be fought by controlling the agents that cause it and mitigating the symptoms. With current treatments, most people can control the disease without significantly altering their daily activities.
However, sometimes this monitoring is not achieved because some factors fail, such as the lack of diagnosis and therapeutic adherence (treatment follow-up by the patients).
Keeping it under control to gain quality of life and lose limitations, especially in spring, which is when it manifests itself the most—the winter cold can also unleash it—involves a series of strategies.
How do I know if my asthma is controlled?
SEPAR exposes a series of signs that indicate that the asthma is not controlled:
- Presence of wheezing, difficulty breathing or tightness in the chest.
- Unable to perform daily activities of daily living.
- Pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, come out altered.
- The use of a rescue inhaler is necessary many times.
How to keep asthma at bay
There are two factors that allow you to have asthma borderline. The main one is that the sick person is in the hands of specialists who carry out stable control over time on the evolution of their disease. The second is that the patient takes the prescribed medications seriously even in those times when the symptoms of asthma are not felt. It is common to feel the false impression that we have the disease under control.
According to him study Measuring Asthma Gina Control Study (MAGIC), more than half of asthmatic patients are not well controlled, although only 7% are aware of it.
To reduce the symptoms it is essential to control the asthma well and this happens through these actions defined by the SEPAR in the Spanish Guide for Asthma Management (GEMA):
- Have an asthma action plan: Because symptoms are variable and can get worse or better depending on a number of things, it is necessary to know how we can adjust medications based on symptoms and when to seek medical help. We must agree with the health professional on a written plan so that when the asthma begins to cause discomfort, we can act quickly.
- Know your triggers and avoid them: This is what causes our lungs to overreact and cause the symptoms. Each person has their own. The most common are usually pollens, mold, tobacco smoke, climate change or infections such as colds.
- Take the preventer inhaler every day: Many people think they can do without their preventer medicines when they don’t have symptoms, but they can’t. Preventive medicines like inhaled corticosteroids give us protection over time and keep the airways from becoming inflamed, meaning we’re less likely to react to triggers. But the benefits start to show after two to three weeks, so it’s important to continue and not stop.
- Always carry your quick-relief or rescue inhaler with you everywhere: In addition to prevention, it is very important to carry your reliever inhaler with you to quickly treat unexpected symptoms. If we act quickly, we can reduce the risk of having an asthma attack. If we have to use this inhaler three or more times a week, it means that the asthma is getting worse and we need to see the doctor.
- Learning to use the inhaler: there are a variety of inhalers that we can use and each of them with a different system from the other. Using it the right way makes a big difference in the amount of medicine that reaches our airways. It also helps us prevent the side effects of the medicine that remains in the mouth.
- Quitting smoking: Significantly reduces the severity and frequency of symptoms. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of asthma medicines.
- Do physical exercise: there is a false belief that if we have asthma we cannot practice sports. But activity helps strengthen your breathing muscles, boosts your immune system, and helps maintain a healthy body weight. The key to success is getting your asthma under control before you start.
- Be careful with viruses: colds and flu can infect the airways and lungs. Viral infections are a common cause of asthma symptoms. If we avoid contracting some type of virus, we will have fewer symptoms. We can try it with proper hand hygiene and getting vaccinated against the flu.
Self-care is especially relevant when we talk about asthma because it is what will allow us to understand the disease, control it better, avoid prolonged treatments and prevent inflammation of the bronchi from lasting too long.
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