Asthma is a chronic condition affecting the lungs. In persons with asthma, the airways become inflamed in response to different triggers. The inflammation causes spasm and narrowing of the airways, as well as increased mucus production. This makes breathing difficult for a person with asthma. Air must be forced through narrowed, obstructed air passages producing recurring episodes of wheeze, breathlessness, cough and chest discomfort. Not everyone with asthma wheezes… Episodes vary and may be frequent and intense due to the exposure to triggers and/or risk factors. Triggers may differ between persons with asthma.
Triggers of Asthma Include:
- Respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza
- Air pollutants and irritants such as smoke and paint, vehicle exhaust fumes
- Cold air
- Physical activity
- Certain medications including aspirin, and some anti-inflammatory agents
- Allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mould, cockroach waste
- Strong emotions and stress
- Preservatives added to some foods
Risk Factors of Asthma include:
- Familial or genetic predisposition
- Being a smoker or exposure to second-hand smoking
- History of allergic conditions including hay fever,
- Being overweight
- Occupation risk and chemicals in the workplace
Asthma cannot be cured. It may be treated and controlled by avoiding identified triggers, lifestyle adjustment, and by using medication that will ease the symptoms and reduce the intensity and frequency of attacks. Persons with asthma use a ‘rescue’ inhaler as needed. The rescue inhaler is a fast-acting bronchodilator used to reduce the spasm of the airway and relieve the acute symptoms of an attack. Persons with asthma should always have their rescue inhaler with them. They may also be prescribed inhalers to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks. These inhalers may contain corticosteroids and are referred to as ‘preventers’. Effective control of asthma requires understanding asthma and compliance with treatment recommendations.
Screening for asthma can be accessed at your nearest health centre or ask your health care provider on your next visit.
Visit the National Health Fund (NHF) website, https://www.nhf.org.jm/ , to see how you can access your Asthma medication, spacers and masks at a reduced cost.