World Asthma Day: Asthma Education Empowers

Think of filling a plastic bag with some water tie it then puncture a few tiny holes in it and try to squeeze the water out. Do you notice it takes a lot of effort and even some resistance for the water to come out as compared to if you had punctured larger holes? Our lungs are like air bags that inflate and deflate as we breathe in or out. One of the most common conditions that affect how the lungs perform this essential activity of breathing is Asthma.

Asthma is a non-communicable disease, meaning it can’t be transferred through air particles or coming in contact with someone that has it, and it affects both children and adults but is more prevalent in children as a chronic disease. Asthma is a condition characterized by the narrowing and swelling of the airways (the tube-like structures that allow the passage of air) and most times produces excessive mucus. Asthma has no cure and has great financial implications on both the affected patients and their families causing them to miss either school or work. One good thing is that it can be controlled but can lead to death in very serious cases of asthma attack.

The cause of asthma is still not fully known but most asthmatic patients are usually born with it, which speaks to the fact that it can be as a result of genetics or some are detected in early childhood due to factors like air pollution, respiratory infections, allergies, etc. The symptoms of asthma ranging from difficulty in breathing to cough, wheezing, red and itchy eyes, excessive mucus production, chest pains and sometimes difficulty in breathing.

According to the Economic Times report on Asthma in 2023, about 339 million people are affected globally and there has been a record of its increase by 50% every decade. In Nigeria, the prevalence is very high ranking her as one of the leading countries with high rate of asthma globally approximating 13 million people living with clinical asthma.

In view of this year’s World Asthma Day which talks about empowerment through asthma education, we thought to share on how to prevent asthmatic attacks and also tips on how to help someone experiencing an asthmatic attack.

How to prevent an Asthmatic Attack

  1. Identify the triggers: this is the first and most crucial step, once you’re able to identify what causes you to have an attack, it would be easy to eliminate. It could be dust, pollen, certain fragrances, household detergents or elements within your home or outside environment. While most triggers are common to asthma sufferers, there are those specific to each individual, so identify yours.
  2. Avoid the triggers: sometimes complete elimination may not be possible for many reasons but try as much as possible to avoid or stay away from them to prevent attacks. For example, if someone in your house uses a fragrance that triggers you, then avoid being there when that fragrance is being used
  3. Avoid smoke of any type
  4. Treat colds early: the best bet is to prevent colds (catarrh) by not frequenting cold places or making sure you’re well covered when there’s a decrease in temperatures but if you eventually get a cold be sure to treat it immediately.
  5. Take your medications as instructed: defaulting medications can cause severe attacks at every slight trigger so to make sure you’re protected make sure to take them as prescribed.
  6. Keep your inhaler handy
  7. Eat healthy: This can never be overestimated. Eating healthy involves having a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, staying hydrated, avoiding oily and salty foods, all of these help in keeping the immune system healthy.

How to help someone experiencing an attack

  1. Help them sit down and reduce excessive clothing especially if they’re tight or constrictive and help then access their inhaler
  2. Ask them to take slow but deep breaths
  3. Assist them in using their inhaler if the attack doesn’t subside (use the 2:2:10 rule, two puffs every two minutes, up to 10 puffs)
  4. Give them reassurance: panic can make an asthma attack worse so make to help them calm down and know they will be fine.
  5. Make sure the person is away from triggers: you may be countering your efforts of helping if the person is still around triggers so make sure the person is not within harms-way.
  6. Seek emergency help: if the person doesn’t seem to be getting better, reach out for help by calling emergency numbers available or getting the person to the nearest hospital but follow the above steps first.

Gone are the days where people don’t know what to do in times of emergencies and knowledge is key in saving lives and preventing casualties.

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Written By:
Rebecca Adeleke-Adesanmi, BSc. Nur., MA, Healthcare Mgt.
Health & Wellness Advocate.

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