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Ascension : World Asthma Day- 4 May 2010
Submitted by The Islander (Islander Editors) 06.05.2010 (Article Archived on 20.05.2010)

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

World Asthma Day- 4 May 2010

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Sometimes sticky mucus or phlegm builds up which can further narrow the airways. The illustration on the left shows a cross section of the airways, with and without inflammation.

All these reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated - making it difficult to breath and leading to symptoms of asthma.

         5.4m people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

         1.1m children in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

         There is a person with asthma in one in five households in the UK.

What causes asthma?

It is difficult to say for sure what causes asthma.

What we do know is that:

  • you are more likely to develop asthma if you have a family history of asthma, eczema or allergies

  • it is likely that this family history combined with certain environmental factors influences whether or not someone develops asthma

  • many aspects of modern lifestyles such as changes in housing and diet and a more hygienic environment may have contributed to the rise in asthma over the last few decades

  • research has shown that smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of a child developing asthma

  • children whose parents smoke are more likely to develop asthma

  • environmental pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and may play a part in causing some asthma

  • adult onset asthma may develop after a viral infection

  • irritants found in the workplace may lead to a person developing asthma

Asthma symptoms

The usual symptoms of asthma are

  • coughing

  • wheezing

  • shortness of breath

  • tightness in the chest.

Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people experience them from time to time; a few people may experience these symptoms all the time.

Controlling your asthma

If your asthma is under control you are more likely to have a better quality of life and be more able to do the things you want to.  

Is your asthma under control?


Three questions can help you to identify whether your symptoms are under control:-

In the last month:

  • Have you had difficulty sleeping because of your asthma symptoms (including cough)

  • Have you had your usual asthma symptoms during the day (cough, wheeze, chest tightness or breathlessness)

  • Has your asthma interfered with your usual activities - eg housework, work, school etc)

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions it may be that your asthma is not controlled as well as it could be.

See the doctor or  nurse to discuss ways that you may be able to improve your asthma control.


Signs that your asthma is not well controlled

Signs may include:

  • Waking at night with coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or a tightness in the chest

  • Having to take time off work because of your asthma

  • Finding it difficult to breathe, and breathing short shallow breaths

  • Needing more and more reliever treatment

  • Finding that your reliever does not seem to be working

  • Having to take your reliever more frequently than every four hours

  • Feeling that you cannot keep up with your usual level of activity or exercise

If you notice any of these symptoms you should follow your personal asthma action plan, as this should help you to get your symptoms back under control.

If this does not work, you should see the doctor or nurse.

This may involve looking at your medicines, triggers and lifestyle to see if anything can be changed.

Healthy lifestyles for asthma

Improving your lifestyle doesn't have to mean spending hours in the gym.

 It's easy to incorporate changes that will gradually help you become fitter,

 healthier and less stressed. When you've decided to make some lifestyle

changes, take them slowly! If you imagine your path to fitness involves

running a mile a day without fail it's unlikely to happen.

Think about the reasons why you want to get fit.

Look at how best you can manage your goals without disrupting your normal routine. If you try and over stretch yourself too soon it's likely that you'll be back to your old ways before you know it. When you have your plan of action, set a start date.

Prepare yourself perhaps by throwing out the cigarettes or filling the fruit bowl and if you still feel ready, go for it!


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