What is Asthma?
by Tash Hughes of
Asthma is such a
common disease now that everybody has heard of it and
probably knows a few people who have it.
In fact, over
two million Australians have asthma; that is about
10% of the population. It is both common and real.
Yet, unless you
have studied it or had it explained by a doctor, you may
wonder what asthma actually is.
What does it
For anyone who
has never had an asthma attack, it is very hard to
understand what it feels like. It is similar to be being
puffed after running up a hill, but not quite the same;
for one thing, it is much scarier.
To get a feel
for asthma, put a normal drinking straw in your mouth
and hold your nose closed. Now jog on the spot for a
minute. How’s your breathing going? Notice the
sensations of breathing in and your chest getting
pained? That is similar to how asthmatics feel during an
attack. (Note: asthmatics will bring on an attack if
they try this exercise so it is NOT recommended.)
asthmatic, Ally, described her asthma attacks as “the
more you try to breath the less you feel like you are
What is an
The small air
sacs and airways of the lungs become irritated. Thus,
they swell and can fill with mucous.
This leaves less
space in the airways for air to move through and it
becomes hard to get enough air into the lungs. This
results in chest pain and an overwhelming desire to
breathe rapidly which actually worsens the situation.
Asthma can be
life threatening and so must be taken seriously. An
asthma attack can develop into a more serious attack or
it can just exhaust the patient such that a mild attack
can become fatal.
asthma is caused by an irritation of the airways.
What causes the
irritation varies between people and between attacks.
Some common irritants or triggers are:
(things that cause allergy in some people)
infections such as a cold or flu
weather or temperature changes
(this can be managed so exercise should not be avoided
as a trigger)
You are more
likely to develop asthma if
eczema or hayfever
There is a
family history of asthma, hayfever and/or eczema
exposed to cigarette smoke before birth and during
There is no cure
for asthma, but the disease can be managed.
available to prevent attacks and relieve the symptoms.
Attacks can be minimised by avoiding known triggers as
much as possible and by leading a generally healthy
lifestyle, including fresh foods and exercise.
It is important
to develop an asthma plan with your doctor so that
everyone knows what to do to avoid attacks and deal with
them when they occur.
Asthma is more
common in children than adults, but first attacks can
occur at any age. Some children appear to ‘grow out
of it’, but these people will still have more sensitive
airways than non-asthmatics.
What if I have
identified as having an asthma attack previously should
have a plan in place with their doctor and know what to
having their first asthma attack, it is wise to see a
doctor soon afterwards to discuss the disease. By
learning about asthma and your triggers, you can manage
it and reduce the likelihood of attacks.
Having asthma is
serious but need not change your life very much.
Learning about your disease is the first step to leading
a normal life, and then some simple precautions can be
followed to minimise attacks and complications.
If you witness someone having an
asthma attack, follow these guidelines:
Have the patient sit upright
Reassure the patient and keep them
Encourage slow, careful breaths
If concerned, call an ambulance
Give four separate puffs of
reliever medication if they have it available
Wait four minutes before giving
another four puffs
Call an ambulance after two sets of
four puffs without improvement
Continue with puffs every four
minutes until the ambulance arrives
Tash Hughes is
the owner of
Word Constructions and is available to solve all
your business writing problems! From letters to
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