Respiratory allergies, especially asthma and nasal allergy (also called allergic rhinitis) are increasing worldwide, particularly in children. These conditions are far more than just huffing and sneezing for a couple of weeks during the pollen season. The quality of life of patients suffering from respiratory allergies is often severely impaired as is their social life, their career and even their school performance. Lately, there is more concern about air pollution caused by traffic and industry, which is a major trigger to respiratory allergies.
HOW DO RESPIRATORY ALLERGIES OCCUR?
An overreaction of the immune system
Your body’s immune system helps keep you healthy by producing disease-fighting antibodies. These antibodies can destroy harmful foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria that cause disease. But if you have an allergy, certain types of antibodies get over stimulated and your body reacts when it comes into contact with a normally harmless substance. The air we breathe. The food we eat. The things we touch. They can all trigger an allergic reaction.
Nose, eyes, bronchial tubes: the “victims” of respiratory allergens
Present in the environment, the main respiratory allergens are house dust mites, pollen, animal hair and mould. If inhaled, they cause inflammatory reactions in the nose, eyes, throat and bronchial tubes. The main allergic respiratory conditions are allergic rhinitis and asthma.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways of your lungs, i.e. the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. In asthma, your airways become sensitive and react to many irritants, like cigarette smoke, pollen or cold air. This causes the muscles around the airways to tighten and become narrow. There is also a swelling, in the lining of your airways, and sometimes, thick sticky mucus builds up that blocks the airways, making breathing difficult. Often, there is a wheezing sound.
Now if you have asthma or know of anyone who does, the first thing you do is;
Don’t worry. You are not alone.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 300 million people currently suffer from asthma. It is the most common chronic (long duration) disease among children. The WHO report also states that asthma affects about 25-30 million in India alone.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ASTHMA?
The usual symptoms of asthma are
-Tightness in chest: A constricted feeling in the chest.
-Shortness of breath: Breathlessness i.e. you can’t get enough air in or out of your lungs.
-Recurrent or persistent coughing: A cough that doesn’t go away. Coughing often occurs at night or after exercise.
-Wheezing: A whistling sound that’s usually heard when breathing out.
-Disturbed sleep due to coughing at night
-Breathlessness while exercising
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. Someone may have all the symptoms while another may have only coughing or wheezing. Do keep a close watch on your symptoms and discuss them with your doctor to help diagnose your condition correctly. And remember that with the proper treatment you can control your asthma symptoms.
IS ASTHMA LIFE-THREATENING?
Asthma can be life-threatening if not controlled properly. Deaths occur more frequently in adults than children. The single factor leading to severe or fatal asthma attacks seems to be a delay in administering appropriate drug therapy.
Having an action plan in place, working with your doctor, recognizing the triggers and early warning signals of an attack can all contribute to a decrease in the frequency and severity of attacks. Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!