What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition characterised by airway inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Dr Prashant Chhajed, Director-Pulmonology, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi - A Fortis Network Hospital - shares that as per an annual estimate for the year 2019 alone, asthma has caused an estimated 4,61,000 deaths around the globe. In India, asthma affects about three per cent of the population (30 million patients), with a prevalence of 2.4 per cent in adults aged above 15 years and between 4-20 per cent in children.
Dr Prashant Chhajed, Director-Pulmonology, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi - A Fortis Network Hospital tells us what beliefs and dangerous myths abound around this health condition.
There are various triggers for asthma that can worsen the health condition of a patient if they get an asthmatic attack. Some common triggers include viral infections (colds), inhalation of pollutants like dust, smoke, fumes, drastic changes in the weather/temperature, animal fur and feathers, strong soaps, and even strong perfumes. Dr Prashant Chhajed says that this is why it is essential to generate awareness about the ailment. Mentioned below are some of the myths and facts associated with the condition, its triggers and treatment:
Myth 1: Asthma is only present when symptoms appear
Dr Prashant Chhajed: When a person has been diagnosed with asthma, it is essential to understand that there might be durations in their life when they do not experience any asthmatic attacks. This does that mean that they are asthma free and discontinuation of treatment due to the same is one of the biggest challenges that the medical fraternity faces today. When patients stop their treatment plan, it can result in the aggravation of the disease, and it can return with more severity. It is essential to understand that asthma is a chronic condition and requires long-term management. A patient must never stop their treatment or change their medication, including the use of inhalers, without consulting a doctor.
Myth 2: People who have asthma should never exercise
Dr Prashant Chhajed: While exercise is a common trigger for asthma, children who suffer from the condition mustn't be sidelined because of this condition. If a child has asthma, the parents, teachers, and doctors must work together to help the child manage the situation so that they can participate in physical activities as far as possible. Additionally, new studies have shown that exercises might help asthma patients to improve their breathing and quality of life. Proper breathing exercises and techniques that doctors have approved can enhance outcomes and the psychological state of the patients.
Myth 3: Children can outgrow asthma
Dr Prashant Chhajed: Asthma is often thought of as a childhood disease. Many people believe that once the child grows up, they will also outgrow the condition. This is not true as asthma is a chronic and life-long condition. And while it can flare up at some point in a patient's life and disappear at other times, patients must continue with their medication and treatment. With a few lifestyle changes and proper medication, asthma will not be a significant factor in the patient’s life, and they can enjoy a good quality of life without any restrictions.
Myth 4: Inhalers are addictive, unsafe and cause many side-effects
Dr Prashant Chhajed: Inhalers (both bronchodilator and steroid inhalers) has been recognized and widely accepted as an effective treatment technique for managing asthma. However, due to a lack of awareness, many people remain reluctant to use this method as the word 'steroid' conjures up the vision of building up muscles. This is because, very often, corticosteroids are confused with anabolic steroids. It is essential to know that for people living with asthma, corticosteroids (that are delivered through inhalers) can be lifesavers as they help prevent or reverse the inflammation in the airways and make them less sensitive to the triggers. As inhalers help these drugs reach the lungs, they are very important for any asthma patient.
Myth 5: Asthma is not fatal
Dr Prashant Chhajed: Asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, especially in poor and middle-income sections of society. However, if a proper expert/doctor does not treat it, it can be fatal. Also, asthma flare-ups can be deadly, although they are rare. In conclusion, managing asthma involves understanding and avoiding the triggers of asthma attacks. With proper management, asthmatic patients can lead an active, regular, productive, and healthy life, so make sure you consult a doctor if you or anyone you know shows any symptoms related to the condition.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.