World Asthma Day, Thursday, 5th May 2016

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Information taken from: http://www.ginasthma.org/World-Asthma-Day

World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.

NHSChoices

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common long-term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person. Asthma can be controlled well in most people most of the time, although some people may have more persistent problems.

Occasionally, asthma symptoms can get gradually or suddenly worse. This is known as an “asthma attack”, although doctors sometimes use the term “exacerbation”.

Severe attacks may require hospital treatment and can be life threatening, although this is unusual.

 

What causes asthma?

Asthma is caused by inflammation of the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal.

When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs – known as a trigger – your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten, and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm).

Common asthma triggers include:

 House dust mites

 Animal fur

 Pollen

 Cigarette smoke

 Exercise

 Viral infections

Asthma may also be triggered by substances (allergens or chemicals) inhaled while at work. Speak to your GP if you think your symptoms are worse at work and get better on holiday. The reason why some people develop asthma is not fully understood, although it is known that you are more likely to develop it if you have a family history of the condition.

Asthma can develop at any age, including in young children and elderly people.

Who is affected?

In the UK, it is estimated around 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma. That’s the equivalent of 1 in every 12 adults and 1 in every 11 children. Asthma in adults is more common in women than men.

How asthma is treated

While there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

Treatment is based on two important goals, which are:

 relieving symptoms

 preventing future symptoms and attacks

For most people, this will involve the occasional – or, more commonly, daily – use of medications, usually taken using an inhaler. However, identifying and avoiding possible triggers is also important.

You should have a personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse that includes information about the medicines you need to take, how to recognise when your symptoms are getting worse, and what steps to take when they do so.

Outlook

For many people, asthma is a long-term condition – particularly if it first develops in adulthood.

Asthma symptoms are usually controllable and reversible with treatment, although some people with long-lasting asthma may develop permanent narrowing of their airways and more persistent problems.

For children diagnosed with asthma, the condition may disappear or improve during the teenage years, although it can return later in life. Moderate or severe childhood asthma is more likely to persist or return later on.

 

Living with asthma 

Your asthma may get better or worse at different times. There may be periods when you have asthma symptoms, but in between you may be generally well, possibly for many years.

Below are some things you can do to help keep your asthma under control.

Self care

Self care is an integral part of daily life. It involves taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing, with support from those involved in your care. It includes what you do every day to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health, prevent illness or accidents, and care more effectively for minor ailments and long-term conditions.

People living with long-term conditions can benefit enormously from being supported to care for themselves. They can live longer, have a better quality of life, and be more active and independent.

If your child has asthma, they should be encouraged to manage their condition as they get older so they learn about their medication and how to recognise and treat asthma attacks.

Take your medication

It’s important that you or your child take any medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better.

Taking a preventer medication every day using the correct technique will help keep asthma under control and can help prevent asthma attacks.

If you have any questions or concerns about medication you or your child are taking, or its side effects, talk to your doctor or asthma nurse.

Regular reviews

As asthma is a long-term condition, you’ll be in regular contact with your healthcare team. You or your child should have checks to ensure the condition is under control and that your current treatment is still appropriate at least once a year.

A good relationship with your team means you can easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more the team knows, the more they can help.

Vaccinations

If you have asthma, you may be advised to have a yearly flu jab to protect against flu, as getting flu may make your asthma more difficult to control.

You may also be advised to have a pneumococcal vaccination, a one-off injection that protects against a specific serious chest infection called pneumococcal pneumonia.

Children with asthma still have all their routine vaccinations as outlined in the NHS vaccination schedule.

Stop smoking

If you smoke and have asthma, you should stop smoking as this can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of asthma medication.

NHS Smokefree can offer advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call them on 0300 123 1044, or visit the NHS Smokefree website.

If you do not smoke and have asthma, try to avoid being exposed to tobacco smoke because this may trigger your symptoms.

If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, you should try to ensure that nobody smokes around them.

Source: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Asthma/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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