Asthma Awareness

by Kemboi Kibet

Asthma affect the airways of the lungs. Asthma is a disease that makes it difficult for people to breathe. It can be kept under control with treatment but it never goes away. During an asthma attack, the airway becomes narrow or blocked and swells leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. Asthma had genetic origin and can be passed down from generation to generation It affects people of all ages but usually starts during childhood. Asthma cannot be cured but symptoms can be controlled.


The real cause of asthma is unknown. Asthma attack is however known to be brought on my certain environmental and genetic factors. Certain environmental factors that trigger asthma symptoms include the following

Allergens such as dust, pollen , molds, pet dander can all trigger asthma.

Some foods can also trigger asthma. Foods like peanut,shellfish, cow milk, soy salads.

Air pollutant like smoke.

Stress and strong emotions

cold and other respiratory infections.

physical exercise

cool air

Certain medications such as aspirin and other NSAIDs and beta blockers


People with asthma may have varying range of symptoms. Severity of symptoms may differ from person to person. Some people have occasional symptoms flare ups while others may have symptoms all the time.

Wheezing which is a whistling sound heard when exhaling
cough which comes on and off and worsen at nigh
chest tightness and pain
difficulty breathing

Asthma symptoms may get worse and may require emergency care

extreme breathing difficulty
lips and mouth turning blue or purplish
no relief after using a quick-relief inhaler

Who is at risk of getting asthma

Genetics Having a blood relative with asthma

Smoking can also increase your risk of having asthma or having a mother who smoked while pregnant can also increase your risk

Being overweight greatly increase your risk of developing asthma

Asthma is more common in the black race .

Low birth weight can also contribute to one getting asthma


Physical exam Your doctor will listen to your breathing and look out for signs of asthma such as wheezing and coughing. Physical exam is done to rule out diseases like respiratory infections.

Lung function Test These are a group of test done to find out how much air moves in and out when you breathe. These test includes

spirometry which measures air flow. It estimates how narrow your bronchial tubes are by detemining how much air you breathe out after a deep breath. It also checks how fast you can breathe.
Lung volume measurement is done to estimate your lung volume
Peak flow is also done to check how hard you can breathe out. Lower reading may indicate asthma is getting worse

Imaging test A chest x-ray or an EKG (electrocardiogram) of your lungs is done to check for structural abnormalities. It is done to check whether another disease or infection is the cause of your asthma symptoms.

Blood Test is done to check for eosinophils count and IgE .The mucus one discharges during coughing is also checked for eosinophils.

Asthma can not be cured but living with asthma can be made easy when you know what the symptoms are and how to treat them.Medications are given based on one’s age and symptom, triggers. There are long-term medications that prevent inflammation of the airways and quick relief inhalers like bronchodialators. Patients may also be given allergy medication to prevent the appearance of allergies that trigger the disease. Self care is very important in asthma treatment. This include knowing what your triggers are and taking steps to prevent contact with them or knowing how to treat or ease your symptoms

Long Term Asthma Controlled Medications These medications controls asthma on a day-to-day basis and makes it less likely for an asthma attack to occur.

Leukotriene modifiers relieves asthma symptoms for up to 12 hours. These include montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo)
Inhaled corticosteroids prevent symptoms by preventing airway swelling. You may need to take these medications for several days to weeks before you reach your maximum benefit. They work well and almost always the first choice. They include (Flovent Diskus, Flonase), budesonide (Pulmicort, Rhinocort), mometasone (Nasonex, Asmanex Twisthaler.
Long-acting beta-agonist inhalers They are used together with an inhaled corticosteroid drugs and helps prevent asthma symptoms. Examples include fluticasone-salmeterol (Advair Diskus), budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort) and mometasone-formoterol (Dulera)
Theophylline is a bronchodialator. This daily pill opens the muscles around the airways keeping it open.

Quick Relief Rescue works fast to relief asthma symptoms in the short-term. These rescue drugs are taken when you are coughing , wheezing or having an asthma attack. They may also be taken twice a week to control asthma symptoms or taking right before exercising to prevent exercise induced asthma. They include

Short-acting bronchodilators (inhalers) include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, others), levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA) and pirbuterol (Maxair). They are taken as a portable inhaler or nebulizer.
Oral and intravenous corticosteroids They relieve the airway inflammation caused by severe asthma attack. These medications include prednisone and methylprednisolone

Allergy medications may also be given to relieve allergies. Allergy medications may be given in the form of allergy shots, oral and nasal spray antihistamines and decongestants.


lack of sleep due to interference from asthma symptoms
persistent cough
difficulty breathing due to permanent narrowing of bronchial tubes
decreased ability to exercise
side effects from long-term use of some medications


Asthma symptoms can be reduced by avoiding asthma triggers such as pollen , mold , dust , polluted air , mites

Be up to date with pneumonia and influenza immunization to prevent them from triggering the disease

Know your asthma symptoms and treat them early to prevent severe attacks.

Take medications as prescribed


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