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Keeping asthma at bay

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Sahana Charan

A few precautions go a long way; World Asthma Day today

Bangalore: The "wheezing and sneezing" city of Bangalore is known to be a place asthmatics are advised to stay away from. Earlier, the culprits were pollen content in the air and the weather conditions.

But of late, the reasons seem to be slightly different the rising pollution levels and changing lifestyles in the city have seen an increase in the number of asthma cases being reported, especially among children.

On World Asthma Day, which is being observed worldwide on Tuesday, medical professionals stress the need to eliminate misconceptions about asthma and spread the message that asthma can be controlled, allowing the affected person to lead a normal life.

Asthma is a chronic disease characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. In some children, symptoms may not be clear and they may have cough instead of wheezing.

"Misconceptions, non-compliance of medication and self-medication by patients may lead to hospitalisation, missed work and school and decreased physical activity. Asthma is not curable but if the patient complies with the specialist's advice and keeps triggers at bay, the illness can be controlled and the patient can lead a normal life," said C. Nagaraja, pulmonologist at the SDS Tuberculosis and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases.

At least, 10 per cent of all the outpatient cases that the institute receives are asthma cases of which 3 per cent of patients are children.

Dr. Nagaraja added that a major cause of concern was the rise in incidence among children and this rise was mostly because of schools being located in heavy traffic zones and children being exposed to second hand smoke, dust mites and so on.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), asthma is the most common chronic disease among children and over 80 per cent of asthma deaths occurs in low and lower-middle income countries. Asthma deaths will increase by almost 20 per cent in the next 10 years if action is not taken, the organisation said.

S.S. Rewadi, senior chest physician at the institute, stressed the need for children to have access to treatment at the earliest when they have upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear discharge, blockage of nose, and ignoring these infections may make the child vulnerable to asthma.

Moreover, it was vital that the indoor air quality should be good and basic hygiene should be maintained. He added that the drug delivery system for asthma has advanced manifold and the use of devices such as inhalers have ensured better management of the disease. But the medicines have to be taken regularly for best results.

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