ASTHMA IS NOT CURABLE BUT CAN BE MANAGED
Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t know what to do and any of your moves can make the condition worse? Well, I have been there! I can recall an unforgettable experience I experienced last week. A long-time friend who is also an ex colleague came for a homestay to relax and catch up on some gossip on weekend. We both were excited so we planned on shopping, some yummy Chinese food and vodka party. She wanted to drink after food as she feels sleepy after a few drinks so after dinner we started our gossip session and kept our conversation alive till the last drop of vodka. Lying next to her, I could feel her being uneasy with herself before I could ask her anything she rushed to washroom and puked. It happened thrice and for me it was normal because sometimes our body is not able to digest consumption of food and alcoholic, so I was sure that it was a bodily reaction and she will be fine by the morning. Unfortunately, things turned the other way round and before I could close my eyes I could hear her being breathless but thankfully she pointed towards her bag, and in no time I decoded her non-verbal language I opened her purse and discovered her inhaler with few other medicines. Thankfully, the attack wasn’t that severe and she was fine but it led my mind to think of the people who deal with it every day, just like her and how parents must be managing kids having asthma. One thing that I learned from this incident was to always inform the person you are with if you have this disease ‘Asthma’.
Bringing you some of the best knowledge and tips through one of the best consultants of the tricity, I was able to meet them at a conference held at Hotel Taj on World Asthma Day. The press conference was solely on ‘WIN AGAINST ASTHMA and Live #BEROKZINDAGI’. Present were Dr SK Jindal, Director at Jindal Chest Clinic, Ex HOD – Pulmonary, PGIMER & Dr Meenu Singh, Head of Department -Pulmonary Pediatrics, PGIMER. They started off by explaining what asthma is? Asthma is an incurable illness of the airways. The disease causes inflammation and narrowing inside the lung, restricting air supply. The symptoms of asthma often present in periodic attacks or episodes of tightness in the chest, wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing. During the development of asthma, the airways swell and become extremely sensitive to some of the substances a person might inhale. When this increased sensitivity causes a reaction, the muscles that control the airways tighten. In doing so, they might restrict the airways even further and trigger an overproduction of mucus.
In a layman language, “One minute, you’re breathing normally. The next minute, you’re coughing, wheezing, and gasping for air. Maybe the trouble started when you stroked a cat. Or maybe it happened when you raced for a soccer ball on a breezy spring day. If these situations sound familiar, you may be among the growing number of kids with a lung disorder called asthma”.
Such episodes don’t usually happen out of the blue. At least half of the people who suffer from asthma have allergies that can trigger an attack, says Dr Meenu Singh, Head of Department -Pulmonary Padiatrics, PGIMER. She further added, “Apart from mold, pollen, dust, or other foreign substances, asthma can also be triggered by vigorous exercise, cigarette smoke, perfumes, and cooking odors”.
Nobody knows what causes asthma, once the cause is known then eventually, there will be a hope to find a cure but until then, doctors are working on managing the condition.” said Dr SK Jindal, Director at Jindal Chest Clinic, Ex HOD – Pulmonary, PGIMER explained, “Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers is one good preventive strategy. Medications can help manage the disease. Taken through inhalers, these medicines relax the lung muscles and bring immediate relief. For that you need to know how to take your medication regularly”.
Emphasising on how important inhalation therapy was for the asthma patients, Dr Jindal said that seven out of 10 patients in Chandigarh do not use the therapy at all. Jindal added that the number of patients using inhalation therapy has increased in the last few years, an estimated 50 per cent of asthmatics, however, discontinue inhaler use, largely children. “Many people feel that they will become addictive to inhalation or use them only when they suffer an asthmatic attack,” he said.
The key challenges in the management of asthma include improving compliance and developing effective and easy-to-use inhalers. Many patients frequently underutilise their medications or use their inhalers incorrectly, which can be detrimental to maintaining disease control feels Dr Meenu. Adding on the further details to it, she said, “Parents awareness is of the uttermost importance. Parents should take more precautions and also keep a check when the when the kid is in his/her adolescent age as during that time they tend to miss/skip their medication as they become are careless”. She further added, “Also, many parents feel believe in the myth that the inhalers are addictive but that is not the case, the prescribed drugs are non-addictive. It is just the way of giving medicine directly on respiratory tract.”
The patient’s interest in better understanding his condition and treatment can definitely improve the management scenario of asthma in India.
Since asthma can’t be cured, the goal is to:
- Prevent chronic, troublesome coughing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms
- Reduce the need for quick-relief medicines
- Help maintain good lung function
- Maintain normal activity and sleep through the night
- Prevent attacks resulting in emergency room visits or hospital stays
Everyone, including younger children who are able, should actively manage their asthma care.
- Following a written asthma action plan that you develop with your doctor
- Taking medicines correctly
- Avoiding asthma triggers (except physical activity; you can take medication to allow full participation in physical activities
- Recognizing and acting promptly to symptoms and signs of worsening asthma
- Seeking medical care for asthma attacks when it is needed
- Getting regular “asthma checkups” (about every six months if your asthma is in good control; more frequently if it is not)
- Treating other conditions that can interfere with asthma management.