Asthma is a chronic breathing disorder affecting both children and adults. It is characterized by:
- Cough, severe shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheeze1 and usually occurs after exposure to allergens, viral infections and exercise or exposure to irritants such as fumes and cigarette smoke.
- Inflammation of the airway wall and abnormal narrowing of the airways which may lead to asthma symptoms.
- An asthma attack can be frightening with feelings of suffocation, breathlessness, and loss of control, and can be potentially life threatening.
- Asthma can develop at any age, but is most common in childhood.
- It is the leading cause of hospital admission for children.
What is the Lifetime Risk of Developing Asthma?
- The risk of developing asthma is greatest during childhood, with 20% of children being diagnosed as asthmatic by 12 years of age
- A further 20% of individuals will be diagnosed between the ages of 12 and 40 years
How Does Asthma Develop?
Possible risk factors for the development of asthma include:
- Family history of allergies, asthma and eczema
- High exposure to airborne allergens (pet, dust mites, mould) in the first years of life
- Exposure to tobacco smoke
- Frequent respiratory infections early in life
- Low birth weight and respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) at birth
- Being overweight or obese
The Facts about Asthma
Asthma Can Be Controlled. Yet despite this fact:
- Sixty percent of individuals with asthma have poorly controlled disease, which can often restrict their daily activities. Thirty nine percent of individuals report limitation in their physical activity due to asthma. Twenty percent report absenteeism from school, work or social engagements due to asthma.
Asthma triggers are allergens and irritants that can create breathing problems when people with asthma are exposed to them. Common triggers include:
- Dust and dust mites
- Pollens including tree, grass and ragweed pollens
- Pets and other animals
- Cigarette smoke
- Colds/chest infections
- Weather and air pollution
- Cold air and high humidity
- Food allergies
Asthma is Controlled When:
- Asthma symptoms occur less than four times per week
- One wakes up at night less than once per week
- One rarely misses school, work or social activities because of asthma symptoms
- Asthma symptoms are usually mild
- The need for the blue reliever medications is less than 4 times per week (not counting using the reliever prior to exercise)
- Physical activity is normal.