Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What is Asthma?

As a parent with 3 children who suffer from asthma I appreciate the need to understand asthma and how to treat it.

The incidence of asthma has increase dramatically in Australia through out the 1980�s and 1990�s but seems to have levelled out since then. In Australia something like 2.2 million people suffers from Asthma, with the Indigenous people having a much high figure proportionate to their population.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 20 million Americans suffer from asthma.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is commonly divided into two types; allergy induced asthma and non- allergic asthma. Both result in the similar symptoms:

  • A dry, irritating, persistent cough, particularly at night, early morning
  • A tightness in the chest
  • A shortness of breath and
  • A wheeze when breathing

When then symptom occur a visit to your local G.P. is advised.

People with asthma have sensitive airways and these become restricted when exposed to certain triggers cause by both allergic and non-allergic reactions.

In an allergic reaction can be triggered by inhaling allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mould and some food additives etc.

Non-allergic triggers could be things such as exercise, stress, anxiety, cold air, dry air, smoke, chemicals such as perfumes and other irritants.

Asthma is the restriction of the airway;

through inflammation where the airway becomes red and swollen

the production of excess mucous to block the airway

and bronchoconstriction where the muscle in the airway tighten restricting breathing.

As the airways become constricted the person begins to find it difficult to breathe in, but particularly difficult to breathe out causing a considerable amount of coughing and distress. Many asthmatics are so distressed they need to be hospitalized to help their condition.

The exact cause of Asthma and why some people are more susceptible to asthma than other is not yet fully understood, however, there is often a family history of asthma, eczema or severe hay fever. Although in Australia something like one in six children has been diagnosed with asthma, it can strike at any age. Evidence has shown that unborn babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy or children who are exposed to a smoke filled environment during their early childhood have an increased risk of developing childhood asthma.

Australia is among the highest in world when it comes to asthma. People need to be aware of the symptoms and consult their doctors if needed. Asthma is controllable with the correct medications and asthma action plan.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Asthma Australia

The Asthma Foundation Victoria