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Respiratory

Asthma

Asthma is a condition where the airways become narrowed and inflamed leading to breathing difficulties. Sufferers have to contend with for life, and the main priority is to keep it under control.

The following are common symptoms of asthma:

  • Wheezing sound like ‘whistling’ in the chest
  • Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing
  • Coughing especially at night
  • Production of phlegm

Air moves in and out of the lungs through connected tubes or airways. These tubes go through the throat (Pharynx), over the voice box (Larynx) and down to the windpipe (Trachea), and are then divided into smaller branches called the bronchi and bronchioles, finally ending in air sacs. Oxygen is moved into the blood stream and carbon dioxide is removed.

Most people with asthma have swollen airways due to extreme sensitivity, which can be triggered by certain allergen like dust. Asthma can be distressing and even dangerous if left untreated.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is asthma all in the mind?

Asthma is a physical condition. It is not a psychological problem, although it can affect you emotionally.

2. Can asthma be cured?

Although there has been much research done on asthma but there has not been an answer to the cure. Therefore asthma needed to be control with medication and non-medication means such avoidance of "trigger factor".

3. Is asthma hereditary?

It is quite common to find a close relative who has asthma. However, if one family member has asthma, it does not mean that others will necessarily develop it.

4. What causes asthma?

Asthma is caused by extra-sensitive airways that overreact to certain factors known as triggers. E.g.:

Allergies

House dust mites, pollen, feathers, fur from cats ands dogs, nuts, chocolate, eggs, bananas, preserved food, oranges, fish, milk.

Infections

Common flu, cold, bronchitis and other lung infections.

Overexertion

Exercise, heavy physical work.

Emotions

Fear, anger, stress, worry and excitement.

Weather

Sudden changes in the temperature or humidity.

Overexertion

Exercise, heavy physical work.

Air pollution

Tobacco smoke from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, petrol fumes

Household products

Paint, cleaning solvent fumes, hair spray, scented cosmetics and insecticide spray.

Drugs and chemical

Aspirin.

5. What can you do if you have an asthma attack?

  • MOVE away from the trigger that instigated the attack
  • TAKE a reliever medicine
  • STAY calm for an hour to be sure breathing gets better

6. How do you know whether you need emergency help?

  • Get help if the following occurs:
  • Quick-relief medicine doesn't help for a long time; breathing is still hard.
  • It is hard for you to talk and walk.
  • Your lips or fingers turn blue or grey.
  • Your nose opens wide when you breathe.
  • Your heartbeat or pulse is very fast.

7. What can you do to control your asthma?

  • Avoid trigger factors as mentioned above.
  • Take your medication.
  • You need two kinds of asthma medicines:
    • The first kind is known as the reliever.
    • This will help you to stop the attack almost immediately. You need to carry your reliever medicine with you at all times.
    • The second kind is known as the preventor.
    • They are to protect the lungs and keep asthma attacks from starting. They need to be taken everyday.
  • Regular check up appointment with your doctor.

9. What type of inhaler to use?

  • Metered dose inhaler - Most common where the medicine is kept in a container under pressure and inhaled into the lung.
  • Powdered Inhaler - Easiest type of inhaler to use and needs only a single breath for the medicine to be inhaled.
  • Spacer - For children

10. What have steroids got to do with asthma?

Steroid therapy reduces the swelling of the airway. Today, it is well known that asthma is more than just narrowing of the airway. It has a lot to do with inflammation of airways which are hypersensitive to trigger factors.

11. Why is steroid therapy needed everyday?

  • There have been studies that show that even when there are no symptoms, the inflammation is still present. Therefore, it is essential that we treat the underlying cause that is the inflammation.
  • Steroids are used for the regular maintenance of asthma control as they provide treatment of the underlying problem, inflammation. In short, they are known as the "preventors" of asthma.
  • Corticosteroids are steroids used in asthma treatment that are derived from a natural hormone already produced in the body.

12. What are the different types of corticosteroids?

  • Oral - Used to treat sudden, severe attacks of asthma, or when asthma is out of control. They are usually used on short-term basis. Example: prednisolone.
  • Inhaled - Currently the most effective treatment for the control and prevention of asthma symptoms. Example: Fluticasone propionate and Beclomethasone Diproprionate

13. What are the side effects of corticosteroids?

  • When you inhale a corticosteroid into your airway with an inhaler at recommended doses, corticosteroid is safe. To help prevent common side effects like sore throat and yeast infection, it would be advisable to rinse your mouth after inhalation.
  • Oral corticosteroids are unlikely to cause side effects when taken for short periods (1-2 weeks). However, when used over a long period of time, they may cause side effects such as thinning of the bone, diabetes, hypertension, cataracts, weight gain, acne, fragile skin, weak muscle and mood changes.
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