Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children worldwide with around 235 million people living with asthma. The disease is more common in children than adults, but adults are four times more likely to die from asthma than children. Over 80% of asthma-related deaths occur in low-and lower-middle income countries. The prevalence of asthma in Nigeria is high with approximately 13 million cases, ranking amongst the highest in Africa.
Asthma is a common lung condition that causes sporadic breathing difficulties. It often starts in childhood, although it can also develop in adults, and affects people of all ages. It is a major non-communicable disease which varies in severity and frequency from person to person.
It is a disease of the lungs which makes the lining of the bronchial tubes swell, causing the airways to narrow, thereby reducing the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms include a whistling sound when breathing (wheezing), breathlessness; a tight chest which may feel like a band is tightening around it and coughing. These symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse during the night or following physical activity – this is known as an asthma attack.
Asthma attacks can be fatal, accounting for most asthma deaths; but they are largely preventable and manageable. An attack may occur randomly or after exposure to a trigger. Common triggers include allergies (to house dust mites, animal fur or pollen, etc.), smoke, pollution and cold air, strenuous exercise, infections like colds or flu, extreme emotional duress, exercise, and certain medicines. The fundamental causes of the disease are likely to be a combination of genetics and these external triggers.
If a person appears to be having an asthma attack, they need to sit up straight and take slow, regular breaths, and take regular breaths from their “inhaler”, following their treatment plan instructions. If possible, a medical professional should be contacted immediately. Although asthma has no cure, the symptoms can usually be controlled with treatment modalities such that most people will have normal, active lives.
Even though asthma is incurable, affected individuals can live rewarding, fulfilling lives with the right treatment regime. Asthma is often treated using an inhaler to breathe in medicines. People with ongoing symptoms will need to take daily medication for the long-term. It’s also important for individuals living with asthma to avoid triggers. With medical support, individuals can identify what their triggers are and take steps to avoid them.
As manageable as it is, Asthma is a serious condition that can cause several problems leading to various medical complications. In the wake of the on-going pandemic which has a deleterious effect on the airways, it is important, now more than ever to ensure that asthma is kept under control. We have had enough asthma deaths and so we must at this time unite our voices and our actions in putting up a fight to overcome this hurdle.