By Daphne Clarance: Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide. According to experts, 38 million of these live in India. Over the years, it has been witnessed that mortality and morbidity from asthma are higher in low and middle-income countries due to air pollution and poor reach for medicine.

"Many young lives are lost due to premature deaths and many kids miss their school, and the younger population misses their work due to asthma attacks," Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director and Unit Head Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, told

What is asthma?

Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease that affects both children and adults. It is one of the most common diseases among children. It is caused by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs which causes difficulty in breathing, chest tightness and a combination of coughing and wheezing.

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Asthma is mainly an allergic disease, but many asthmatics do not give any allergic history. "Many of them develop asthma in adult age and some in old age," said Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha.

Asthma is mainly an allergic disease, but many asthmatics do not give any allergic history. (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

World Asthma Day is celebrated every year on the first Tuesday of May. This year, it is celebrated on May 2, in order to raise awareness about this chronic disease and improve care around the world.

When it comes to this breathing disease, it is important to note that city life can cause a threat to many people, especially among children due to high levels of pollution.

Does city life make you asthma-prone?

Smoking triggers asthma attacks but of late, air pollution has been labeled as one of the most important triggers of asthma. Besides air pollution, viral infection, poor inhaler use, pollen, changing weather, and strong smells are other common triggers for an asthma attack.

"We have noticed a very peculiar trend in asthma. The diagnosis and complications in the younger generation are increasing. Many younger school-going kids have bad asthma control that is leading to frequent attacks," observed Dr Jha.

He added that many kids are scared to take inhalers, which are again leading to attacks. "However, post Covid, patient awareness of vaccinations has improved, and they are taking flu vaccinations because of this. The frequency of severe attacks has gone down in the elderly population as well, especially in winter," he said.

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According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the greatest predictor of asthma risk is pollution exposure. While the findings supported pollution as a cause of asthma, the study suggested that indoor pollution may be doing more harm.

"A lot of what may make a difference is what happens inside the home than outside the home, especially as we spend so much time indoors these days," said Dr Corinne Keet, an assistant professor of pediatrics at John’s Hopkins Children’s Center, in a statement.

The study mentioned that allergy exposure from old housing materials, cockroaches and mice, mould pollution, cleaning supplies, and tobacco smoke may be heavy contributors as well.

Early signs of asthma are important to recognise to start early treatment so as to lead to a better outcome.

"Since most asthmatics have an allergic history, patients usually experience symptoms of chest tightness, breathlessness, wheezing, and coughing that is worse at night or early morning. Other allergic manifestations like running nose, sneezing, and skin rashes may also be present. Asthma, if treated on time, can be controlled easily," said Dr Jha.

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