Over the last two years of living with Covid-19, we have been aware of what affects our breathing and respiratory tract.
One common lung condition that many people live with is asthma, though some may not think it’s a huge problem in adulthood.
However, online GP service, webdoctor.ie, found that over half of their patients who were inquiring about asthma were in their late 20s-40s.
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The reality is that asthma can develop at any stage in life and may look different in adults than it does in children.
Diane Bennis, a GP with the online healthcare provider, defined asthma as a “condition that affects the airwaves” which become inflamed and narrow. They then become sticky and this is how symptoms of asthma start.
“The symptoms in adults will generally be wheeze, breathlessness, chest tightness and cough. The important thing is the pattern of them, so they tend to be late at night or early in the morning.
“They can sometimes be provoked by exercise, cold air, odour or allergens from dust mite or pollen,” she said.
Being diagnosed with asthma later in life may differ from the symptoms a child may experience, which include a cough when they are playing, laughing or crying and a reduced amount of activity.
“Maybe [the child] is not inclined to play. They’re inclined to sit down a little bit because that will bring on their symptoms and they kind of instinctively know not to do that. It might not be that obvious,” Diane said.
Having a family history of asthma can make a person more susceptible to it.
In adulthood, asthma can often be picked up when a person asks a doctor about a lasting cough or something similar. Many people “may not realise” that the condition is actually the cause of the problems they’re having.
When it comes to treating asthma, changing lifestyle habits are what Diane recommends starting with.
“The first thing, with treatment, if I see a patient with webdoctor.ie, I will ask them about smoking. They should stop smoking and they should be in a smoke free home, especially for kids as well.
“I would encourage them to take regular exercise,” she said.
There is no evidence, according to Diane, that diet modifications or cutting out certain foods can improve asthma symptoms.
Inhalers and sometimes tablets are used to manage asthma, as well as a five-step approach to managing it. The control of a patient’s condition is a huge part of living the condition and doctors should assess this.
Diane said: “Unfortunately, overall asthma control in patients in adults and children is suboptimal in the majority of patients.
“Really a patient with asthma should have a normal life. They should have no trouble with their symptoms day or night, with little or no need for reliever medication or inhalers.
“They should have no limitation on their lifestyle. They should have little or no flare-ups or hospitalisations.”
Patients should also be on a reliever and preventer inhaler, whereas “a couple of years ago, some were just on a preventer”.
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