What is bronchial asthma?

This is a condition that makes it difficult to breathe. This may be associated with incessant cough in the early hours of the day or late evenings. The symptoms are mild or severe, and they come and go. When the airways in the lungs become more narrow and inflamed, the symptoms become more severe and may appear more suddenly. What are the symptoms of asthma? This may include coughing, wheezing, noisy breathing a tight feeling in the chest, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may occur each day, each week, or sometimes less. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. It is rare for an asthma attack to lead to death.

Are there any tests to diagnose asthma?

Yes, there are certain specific tests to diagnose asthma and tests to ascertain why asthma is worsening. After proper history and examination, your doctor may ask for blood tests, pulmonary function tests, an X-ray of the chest, and certain skin or blood tests to ascertain the cause of asthma. This is also known as allergic testing.

What are the other disorders that may mimic asthma?

Failure of the heart as a pump can be excluded by proper clinical examination. Chest X-ray ECG or echocardiogram may be necessary. Certain patients who are smokers or exposed to passive smoking due to excessive pollution may have COPD. They may be diagnosed by lung function test What are the triggers and causes of asthma? Certain families may have asthma. Environmental exposure to allergens from grass pollen, domestic pets, fungus, certain occupational sensitizers, and atmospheric pollution from sulphur dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter may be responsible. Drugs like painkillers except for paracetamol, and beta-blockers may trigger asthma. Viral infections are very commonly associated with asthma, particularly in children. Irritant dust, vapours, and perfumes, cigarette smoke can be responsible for asthma. Severe emotional stress and cold air may be associated with asthma exacerbation. With changes in environmental temperature and pollution, the number of individuals who have an increased incidence of asthma is on the rise. Preventing exposure to allergens, proper use of medications, treatment of secondary infections if any, patient education, and certain vaccinations are the keys to proper treatment.

What are the important aims of treatment?

To abolish symptoms, restore to the best possible limb function, reduce the risk of severe attacks to enable normal growth to occur in children, and minimize absence from school and employment are the key aspects.

What does the management of asthma involve?

This involves patient and family education about asthma, patient, and family participation in treatment, and avoidance of identified factors that trigger asthma wherever possible. Use of the lowest effective doses of convenient medications to minimize short-term and long-term side effects.

How is asthma treated?

It is treated with different types of medications. They are inhalers, liquids, pills, or at times nebulizers in severe cases. Quick relief medications stop symptoms quickly in 10 to 15 minutes. These are quick relief inhalers that the patients carry with them. More doses are required if asthma symptoms get worse. Long-term controller medicines control asthma and prevent future attacks. You should always know how exactly to take these inhalers. You may at times need them a few times a day.

Can asthma symptoms be prevented, particularly in children?

Lower the chances of getting viral infections. This includes vaccination against specific viruses, including flu and coronavirus. Children should get all the vaccines and boosters. Avoid triggering smoke, air pollution, dust, mould, pollen, strong smells or chemicals, and very cold or dry air. Exercise and emotional stress can be a trigger. Know how and when to give medications to children.

What treatment for asthma during pregnancy?

Most of the drugs used for asthma are safe during pregnancy. However, discuss with your doctor before using them. Monitoring symptoms and severity by peak flow metres would certainly help. An increase in symptoms is often seen during the 29 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms of asthma can be seasonal or at times more frequent. Changes in lifestyle, proper use of inhalers and nebulizers, vaccination against flu and coronavirus, avoiding smoking, and avoiding obesity are some key components of management.

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Dr Jay Deshmukh is Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur Honorary Physician to Honorable Governor of Maharashtra and PondicherryCentral. Dr Jay Deshmukh is an M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD From Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi.

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