We have all heard of asthma. You may have asthma, you may have a friend or a loved one with asthma, or you may just be aware of it as the most common respiratory disease in the UK. One way or another we have all encountered asthma. But how much do we really understand about it? In this blog we will dive into the lungs and find the root causes, afflictions and treatments available asthmatics, to help you understand asthma.
What is asthma?
Let us start by getting down to the root of the condition. What causes asthma?
Asthma is caused by an inflammation of the tissue around the airways of the lungs. This then means that less air can make its way through the airways effectively. Leading to the following symptoms:
- Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
- A tight feeling in the chest – it may feel like a band is tightening around it
Please be aware that while these symptoms are typical indicators of asthma, they are also common with several other diseases or conditions. You can tell if it’s asthma as the symptoms will be reoccurring or they will get worse around certain triggers.
Asthma is a long-term condition and affects people of all ages. There is no definite reason as to why some people develop asthma. It may be genetic in some cases, but it also appears to be caused by environmental factors during childhood. In a lot of cases, it gets better during puberty, but it can also return in later life.
Asthma affects more than 8 million people in the United Kingdom, which is over 12% of the population. This makes it the most common lung disease in the country. There is an estimated cost of £1.1 billion each year to the UK health service for asthma related treatments.
What are asthma attacks?
One of the most dangerous aspects of asthma is an asthma attack. This is when the muscles around the airways contract, further tightening the airways and making it harder to breath. There are caused by certain triggers, which cause these attacks to flare up. These triggers can include things such as:
- Allergies (e.g., Dust, animal fur, pollen)
- Cold air
- Infections such as cold and flu
While these triggers may not always cause a full-blown asthma attack, they will usually cause the condition to worsen for a while.
How are these triggers different to each other?
Exercise can cause people to take deep breaths, which may cause asthmatics to cough and need to regain their breath which can be difficult for some asthmatics. However, it is still important that asthmatics perform light exercise regularly.
Smoking, infections, and pollution can irritate the lungs can also cause inflammation of the lung tissue.
To find out how cold air can affect asthmatics read our blog about asthma and the seasons Is Asthma Worse in Summer or Winter? | Asthma Seasons | FluCamp.
Living with asthma
Asthma is a very manageable condition for most people. Asthmatics will usually carry a relief inhaler with them, and should they feel the need, they take a small puff of medicine that will help them breathe easier. These are the usual blue inhalers that you may have seen before.
There are many kinds of inhalers, some are used at a regular time daily to keep symptoms in check. A doctor will prescribe an appropriate inhaler based on individual cases. However, the right inhaler for someone can change over time. This means it is important for asthmatics to visit their doctor at least once a year for a checkup. Asthmatics should note where and when they notice their symptoms worsening so that your doctor can properly recommend precautions to take.
Other things that are important for asthmatics to do to manage their condition include:
- Not smoking
- Getting vaccinated
- Eating healthily
- Exercising regularly
Being vaccinated is important for asthmatics as they are at risk of complications from respiratory infections, such as Covid-19 or flu. The annual flu jab may be available to you, check with your doctor to see if you are eligible.
We have included exercising regularly and eating healthily under the umbrella of healthy living. Eating healthily is good advice for everyone to follow and diet has no effect on asthma, provided people avoid eating things they are allergic to. Exercising regularly may be one of the most important precautions an asthmatic can take, as it boosts lung power. Both a proper diet and exercise helps people stay at a healthy weight, which in turn drastically cuts the risk of an asthma attack. To find out more about exercise and asthmatics, please read our blog on Can asthma sufferers exercise? – Flucamp Blog.
Not smoking limits the irritation caused to the lungs and lowers the risk of infections. Smoking also paralyses the cells that remove the mucus from the lungs. Leading to further coughing as the lungs are lined with more mucus.
Children & Asthma
Asthma is a common condition in children, with around 1 in 11 children being diagnosed with it. Children with asthma should be instructed how to manage their asthma using an action plan. Their action plan should also be explained teachers and carers. It is also good to show teachers and children where their inhalers are kept and how to use their inhalers in case of an attack.
The following symptoms are indicators that your child may be having an asthma attack:
- Finding it hard to breathe
- Breathing more quickly
- Being unable to talk or walk or eat
- Wheezing and coughing a lot
- Complaining of a tight chest or a tummy ache
- Saying their blue reliever inhaler isn’t helping, or they need it more than every four hours
- Being unusually quiet.
If you suspect your child is having an asthma attack, here are some steps you can follow*:
- Help them to sit up – don’t let them lie down. Try to keep them calm.
- Help them take one puff of their reliever inhaler (with their spacer, if they have it) every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a total of 10 puffs.
- If they don’t have their reliever inhaler, or it’s not helping, or if you are worried at any time, call 999 for an ambulance.
- If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and their symptoms are not improving, repeat step 2.
- If their symptoms are no better after repeating step 2, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately.
*taken from If your child has an asthma attack | Asthma UK
If your child has had an asthma attack, it is important for them to see a doctor, in case there have been any changes in their condition.
FluCamp & Asthma
At FluCamp we run specific trials for asthmatics, so that they can help develop treatments for people just like them. For more on what FluCamp has done to help people with asthma check out our blog from world asthma day World Asthma Day 2018 – Flucamp Blog. If you are an asthmatic and want to get involved in one of our clinical trials specially designed for asthmatics, please go to Paid Clinical Trial Volunteer Applications | Join The Fight | FluCamp.