Asthma is a dreadful disease. Once acquired, it is a chronic companion. Asthma differs from the other diseases in that any person, who is in the presence of an asthmatic patient, suffers as much psychologically. The sight of a person, struggling to breath, can be a pathetic and dreadful scene for anybody.
The term asthma is derived from Greek and means ‘panting’. It is a chronic inflammatory disease and results in the obstruction of the airways. The air passages called the bronchioles are filled with mucus. But the major problem in asthma is bronchospasm which results in the constriction of the bronchioles. This places restrictions on air movement and also makes it difficult for the mucus to move out. This results in breathlessness and suffocation.
The disease and the causative factors are not well understood even today. Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to be involved. The latter is more important. Asthma is generally considered as an allergic reaction. It is the allergy to certain substances present at home and outside which triggers the allergic reaction. House dust, mites and animal hair have the pride of place as asthma triggering allergens. Outside the home, air of poor quality resulting from the environmental pollution, is one of the causative factors. A positive skin test for allergic reactions greatly increases the chance of becoming asthmatic. Sometimes, exercise and cold air may also create asthmatic attacks.
It is very easy to recognize an asthmatic person. The common symptoms include
- Tightness of the chest
- Shortness of breath
In general, the asthmatic attacks are most likely in the night or early morning.
Asthma is generally treated with bronchodilators and steroids. Bronchodilators are compounds which help to dilate the bronchioles, thereby making breathing easier. Salbutamol is the classical example for a bronchodilator. It is important to note that the best treatment in asthma is prevention of an asthmatic attack. Once an attack is in place, the bronchodilators do not work. Now-a-days, bronchodilators are available in the form of sprays. This helps to deliver the drug directly to the lungs. This has two advantages. It minimises the side effects and the dosage is drastically reduced.
The role of bacteria
Asthma is not a bacterial infection. However it has been noted that exposure to a wide variety of bacteria can create immunity against a number of diseases and also against the asthmatic disease. For example, the children who live in farms and in slums have been found to be less susceptible to asthma. It has also been noticed that the children delivered through the caesarean section are running a high risk for the development of asthma. Children treated with antibiotics also become susceptible to asthma. What all this means is that the presence of certain type of bacteria can offer protection against asthma.
Precautions for the asthmatics
Keep the house clean. Clean the beds regularly to get rid of the mites. Avoid polluted places. Always carry an inhaler with you. Don’t wait for the asthmatic attack. Prevention is the best part of asthmatic treatment.