Fighting asthma


A RECENT study published in Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, on respiratory symptoms in relation to atmospheric pollution, observed a strong contributory role of air pollutants towards the high prevalence of respiratory diseases in the urban areas with poor pollution control and high vehicular traffic. The study, conducted in Balanagar, Tarnaka and Uppal, reveals high prevalence of symptoms, especially of chronic obstructive airways diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma, in the urban population here.

NOT SO PRETTY: Pollen is a culprit.

NOT SO PRETTY: Pollen is a culprit.  

"Allergy, respiratory symptoms and asthma are as high as 30-50 per cent in the urban areas of twin cities. Asthma is the commonest problem treated by family physicians. Without timely treatment it can progress to severe degrees where the patient suffers with inability to speak or walk few paces. Hospitalisation with oxygen support may be required," says Dr C. E. Prasad, in charge Allergy Unit, Government General and Chest Hospital, at the seminar held on the World Asthma Day (May 7).

With over 150 million worldwide, about 20 per cent of children and 10 per cent of adults suffer from asthma. "Asthma is a recurrent or chronic respiratory illness which manifests with breathing discomfort, wheezing, cough, phlegm and headache. The prevalence is greater in children and young adults due to greater sensitisation of the immune system.," says Dr. Prasad.

Common triggers for asthma are allergens such as house dust containing the dust mite, pollens, strong vapour fumes, air pollutants and select foods though the major reason lies in the genetic makeup with the Atopy gene on Chromosome 11. ``Immunotherapy along with asthma medicines is useful for a single identified allergen especially when pets are unavoidable," he says. ``People can continue the normal social activities, participate in sports in a well controlled manner," says Dr. Sailaja K., Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Mediciti Hospitals at the Continuous Medical Education Programme for general practitioners in the twin cities towards management of asthma and patient education.

SUFFER IN SILENCE: Those afflicted have to watch out.

SUFFER IN SILENCE: Those afflicted have to watch out.  

``Treating asthma is more than giving medicines. A lot of physician-patient education is required in the management of asthma. Emotions are known to trigger asthma, especially during exam times for children when the steroid dose has to be stepped up," she adds.

`Communities working for life and breath'-the World Asthma Day 2002 agenda from Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), a collaborative effort of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), foresees public authorities, national organisations, physicians and patients to make a collective effort to cut the rates of asthma-related hospitalisations and ER visits and reduce the number of school and work days lost due to asthma.

The agenda for action to combat asthma envisages informing and educating health authorities, physicians and families about effective management of childhood asthma; and supporting research into the understanding of the prevalence, causes and treatment of asthma apart from communicating the scientific progress being made.

Some of the new modalities in asthma management and inhalation devices for drug therapy comprise nebulisers, Metered Dose Inhalers (MDI) with a spacer for effective drug delivery, rotahalers and accuhalers for dry powder inhalers.

Some of the asthma prevention measures comprise keeping the house clean, doing away with thick tapestry and rugs, vacuum cleaning of mattresses and ensuring good drainage in the kitchens to keep away insects and cockroaches apart from community awareness and group action to prevent and reduce automobile, domestic and industrial pollutants.

TESTING TIME: Checking for asthma.

TESTING TIME: Checking for asthma.  

The GINA Agenda for Action 2002 highlights the need for every person to have a timely diagnosis, receive appropriate treatment, learn to manage their asthma, and reduce exposure to environmental factors that make his/her condition worse.

More information on asthma is available on the NHLBI website at

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