On World Asthma Day (May 3rd) and throughout May, people with asthma and organisations dedicated to asthma control join together to increase awareness about asthma and improve the lives of those affected by asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma occurs due to inflammation of air passages in the lungs and can irritate the nerve endings in the airways. During an asthma attack, the lining of this passage swells, narrowing the airway and reducing air flow in and out of the lungs.
The fundamental causes of asthma are still not fully understood, however in most cases it is linked to hereditary as well as environmental factors.
The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways, such as:
- Indoor allergens (for example, house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander)
- Outdoor allergens (such as pollens and moulds)
- Tobacco smoke
- Chemical irritants in the workplace
- Air pollution
- Cold air
- Extreme emotional arousal (such as anger or fear)
- Physical exercise
Treatment and control
Although asthma cannot be cured, appropriate management can control the disease and enable those affected by it to enjoy a good quality of life.
Short-term medications are used to relieve symptoms. Medications such as long-term inhaled steroids are needed to control the progression of severe asthma.
People with persistent symptoms may take long-term medication daily to control the underlying inflammation and help prevent symptoms.
To control asthma it is also vital for sufferers to identify what triggers affect their asthma, and take steps to avoid these triggers.