1. What is asthma?
Asthma is a common medical condition in which there is a temporary and reversible narrowing of the airways. In patients with asthma, the lungs airways are hyper-reactive and hypersensitive. The airways become inflamed and the inflammation causes swelling of the airway lining together with the tightening of the muscles in the walls, resulting in less airflow in and out of the lungs.
2. What are the symptoms of asthma?
The main symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing and coughing - especially in cold weather, early in the morning or late at night, and in wintertime.
In patients with severe asthma, the common symptoms are anxiety, blue colour of the lips, ashen grey colour of the skin, fast heart rate or pulse, rapid breathing, contraction of the chest wall, difficulty with speaking and talking, lack of response to asthma medications and feeling very tired and sick.
When these symptoms of severe asthma occur, you should seek medical help urgently. You should call an ambulance on 000 or seek medical help at your local hospital emergency department immediately.
3. How common is asthma?
Asthma affects between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 Australian children, usually in a mild form. It usually comes on in children between the ages of two and eight. If asthma is treated early, most children will “grow out of it” by adulthood. However, a small number of asthma patients (about 1 in 5) may still have asthma into adulthood. It is estimated that approximately 2 in 10 adults have asthma.
4. What causes an asthma attack?
Although no single cause may be found, there are many factors which may aggravate or exacerbate an asthma attack. These trigger are:
- Infection, particularly the common cold.
- Allergies, such as to animal fur, feather, pollens, and mould.
- House dust, such as dust mites.
- Cigarette smoke and smokes from burning woods, petrol, oils, and fumes.
- Occupational irritants, such as wood dust, saw dust, synthetic sprays & chemicals.
- Exercise, especially in cold weather.
- Sudden changes in weather or temperature.
- Certain foods and food additives.
- Drugs, such as aspirin, anti-nflammatory medications, medications to treat arthritis, heart conditions and glaucoma.
- Emotional upset or stress.
5. What are the risks of asthma?
Severe asthma and poorly controlled asthma can cause growth retardation in children. Severe asthma attacks and flare-ups can result in death. Asthma can also cause disturbance in our family, school and social activities and daily living activities. With appropriate treatment and management, almost all children should be able to live a normal life and enjoy normal, everyday activities.
6. What is the treatment for asthma?
There are many medications used to treat asthma. These medications range from an acute asthma reliever, such as Ventolin puffer, to preventative asthma treatment. You should see your local doctors for your asthma assessment and management. The right medications, treatment and preventative measures can help patients to live a normal life. Asthma patients and their families should aim to understand asthma completely and seek to become experts in its treatment.
Prevention of asthma attacks is the best treatment. Individualised asthma treatment with the help of your doctors will help to keep your asthma well under control and patients can lead and live their normal life.
Medications for your asthma should be as simple, safe and effective as possible. There are two types of inhaled medications for your asthma:
- An acute reliever, such as Ventolin, Bricanyl, Respolin or Atrovent.
7. You should know your asthma well by:
- Reading all about it.
- Trying to identify he trigger factors and avoid them.
- Becoming an expert at using your medicine and puffers with correct technique.
- Knowing and recognising the danger signs of asthma attacks or flare-ups.
- Acting promptly if an acute asthma attack flares up.
- Having regular check-ups with your local doctors.
- Having a clear management plan for your asthma.
- Having a good asthma action plan.
- Learning good breathing exercises
- Undertaking regular exercise and physiotherapy.
- Always carrying a Ventolin puffer and/or Symbicort and/or Pulmicort with you.
- Knowing how to check your medication and see when it is empty.
- Learning the value of a peak flow meter for your asthma.
8. The key points about your asthma:
- Get to know how severe your asthma is.
- Avoid trigger factors.
- Get urgent help when danger symptoms and signs appear.
- Have an asthma action plan for your asthma.
- Have your asthma medications with you.
- Use your asthma puffers correctly.
- Know how to use your peak flow meter
- See your local doctors regularly for your asthma assessment & review.