World Asthma Day (WAD) is an annual awareness event supported by Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), US based National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLB) and the World Asthma Foundation. The day is commemorated on the first Tuesday in May each year and aims to raise support for sufferers and their families.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease, which causes breathing difficulties due to swelling and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation is often in reaction to a specific trigger(s) e.g. allergens or exercise. Asthma is not usually curable but can be controlled to a certain extent by prevention medication for chronic symptoms and relief medication for flare-ups. Asthma attacks can be physically and emotionally distressing, but symptoms vary in intensity and frequency from person to person; the most common signs include breathlessness, coughing and chest pains.
Main Causes of Asthma
According to the WHO: “The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways.”
Different people will have different triggers, but the most common causes of asthma attacks are:
exposure to allergens (for example, dust particles, pets, pollen and mould)
• tobacco smoke and air pollution
• vigorous exercise
• viral infections like the common cold or flu
extreme emotional states (for example, anger, fear, distress).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates around 235 million people are effected by asthma globally. The 2022 theme for this year’s WAD is ‘Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions’. These include:
• asthma is infectious
• everyone grows out of their childhood asthma
• asthma is only controllable with high dose steroids
• people with asthma shouldn’t exercise
Coping with Asthma
There is no cure for asthma. Some people will notice an alleviation of symptoms with age, but not all. Education and understanding are key to effective asthma control, which can be fatal if not managed properly. People who suffer from asthma are able to live full and happy lives by following certain steps such as:
Seeking the advice of a medical professional, following the treatment plan prescribed and reviewing medication regularly.
Being prepared – always carry a reliever inhaler and an identity card that tells people what to do in the event of an emergency.
Keeping fit – exercise raises your heart rate, boosts the strength of your lungs/immune system, improves your mood and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Avoiding asthma triggers – learn to recognise and manage what triggers personal asthma attacks.
Quitting smoking if you are a smoker – in the case of children, if possible, limit the amount of time spent in highly polluted areas.