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Don't lose your breath over asthma. Now breathe free.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways, and causes them to squeeze (constrict). This causes narrowing of the airways. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of the lungs. This leads to wheezing and breathlessness. The inflammation also causes the lining of the airways to make extra mucus which causes cough and further obstruction to airflow.

What are ‘triggers’ of an Asthma attack?

Triggers are the irritant factors that bring on the onset of an asthma attack. Identifying asthma triggers is necessary for better asthma control.

  • Airborne asthma triggers
    Eighty percent people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass and weed pollens, mould, animal dander, dust mites and cockroach particles.
  • Some food articles are also triggers of asthma
    Common examples of food allergens are eggs, cow milk, peanuts, soy, shell fish, wheat, fish, salads and fresh fruits.
  • Secondhand smoke
    Asthma can be triggered by the smoke from a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled by the smoker.
  • Dust mites
    Dust mites are too small to be seen, but are found in every home. Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, carpets, fabric-covered furniture, bedcovers, clothes and stuffed toys.
  • Pets
    Your pets' skin flakes, urine and saliva can also be asthma triggers.
  • Moulds
    Moulds are types of fungi which grow on damp materials. They can also act as triggers of asthma.
  • Pests
    Droppings or body parts of pests such as cockroaches or rodents can be asthma triggers.

How do we deal with ‘trigger’ control?

We must…

  • Choose not to smoke in our homes or cars and do not allow others to do so either.
  • Wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water.
  • Choose washable stuffed toys, wash them often in hot water and dry thoroughly.
  • Keep stuffed toys off beds.
  • Cover mattresses and pillows in dust free (allergen impermeable) zippered covers.
  • Remove dust often with a damp cloth and vacuum carpets and fabric-covered furniture to reduce dust build-up.
  • Consider keeping pets outdoors or even finding a new home for your pets, if necessary.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and other sleeping areas at all times, and keep the door closed.
  • The key to mould control is moisture control. If mould is a problem in your home, clean up the mould and get rid of excess water or moisture.
  • Wash mould off hard surfaces and dry completely.
  • Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpets with mould may need to be replaced.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.
  • Do not leave food or garbage out.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Clean all food crumbs or spilled liquids right away.
  • Consider using air conditioners with dehumidifiers and wet vacuum cleaning systems.

Not all of the asthma triggers addressed here affects every person with asthma.
Not all asthma triggers are listed here. See your doctor for more information.

What are the symptoms of untreated Asthma?

The common symptoms are cough and wheeze. You may also become breathless, and develop a feeling of chest tightness. Symptoms can be mild to severe in different people and also be varied in the same person at different times. Each episode of symptoms may last for an hour, or persist for days or weeks unless treated.

What are the treatments for Asthma?

Most people with asthma are treated with inhalers. Inhalers deliver a small dose of drug (b2 agonist or steroids) directly to the airways. The dose is enough to treat the airways. However, the amount of drug that gets into the rest of your body is minimum, so side-effects are unlikely, or minor. Unlike oral steroids, inhaled corticosteroids are not absorbed into the body and are less likely to cause side effects like oral steroids.

Steroid Tablets:
A short course of steroid tablets (such as prednisolone) is sometimes useful to ease a severe or prolonged attack of asthma.

Some people worry about taking steroid tablets. However, a short course of steroid tablets (for a week or so) usually works very well, and is unlikely to cause side-effects. Most of the side-effects caused by steroid tablets occur if you take them for a long time.

Does Asthma go away?
There is no once-and-for-all cure. However, about half of the people who develop asthma 'grow out of it'.

Although not curable, asthma is treatable. Stepping up the treatment during bad spells often controls the symptoms.

Some other general points about asthma…
  • It is vital that you learn how to use your inhalers correctly.
  • See a doctor if the symptoms are not fully controlled or if they are getting worse.
  • Remember, a severe asthma attack can be life-threatening.

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