Bronchial Asthma, under-diagnosed and under-treated

Javaid Khan June 16, 2010
There has been a sharp increase in the global prevalence, morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of Asthma over the last 40 years, particularly in children. Approximately 300 million people worldwide currently have asthma, and its prevalence increases by 50 per cent every decade.

In Pakistan, 10 per cent of children and 5 per cent of the adult population suffer from asthma. Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated in our country.  Most asthma deaths are preventable. Asthma deaths are mostly caused by inadequate long-term medical care or delays in receiving medical help during an acute attack.

People with asthma can live a normal life provided they receive appropriate long term treatment. Asthma patients have sensitive airways and when exposed to a variety of allergens like pollen or irritants like tobacco smoke, they suddenly start coughing and have difficulty in breathing. A typical asthma attack last for a few minutes but it may be prolonged to several hours. If a severe attack is not treated promptly it may even cause the patient's death.

Following are some tips for asthma patients in order to keep this illness under control. With appropriate management patients with this condition can live normal lives.

  1. If you or your child suffers from episodic cough, wheezing, tightness of chest or difficulty in breathing, go to an expert for proper diagnosis and management.

  2. Avoid allergens like house dust mite (present in carpets), Tobacco or other forms of smoke.

  3. Allow fresh air and sunlight inside your house.

  4. Bed sheets/blankets/pillow covers must be kept in sun light regularly to kill house dust mite.

  5. Keep the house and its bathroom/kitchen clean. Cockroaches are an asthma patient's biggest enemy.

  6. Use your metered dose inhalers available in aerosols or dry powders prescribed by the doctors regularly in order to prevent asthma attacks.

  7. Keep in mind that inhalers are safe and do not become a habit as commonly believed in Pakistan.

  8. Keep a check on your asthma control by using the questionnaire Asthma Control Test (ACT) available on the internet.

  9. Record your peak flow readings by using a small gadget called peak flow meter. Peak flow readings tell you about the degree of narrowing of your air tubes of lungs.

  10. Avoid active and passive smoking at all cost.

  11. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables .Keep in mind that asthma attacks are not precipitated by eating rice, yogurt, banana, ice cream or eggs as commonly believed in Pakistan.

  12. Do not discourage your children, with asthma, to take part in physical games and exercises.

Javaid Khan The chair for the National Alliance for Tobacco Control and a professor of Medicine and Head Section of Pulmonary Diseases at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. He tweets as @javaidkhan61
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


JAVAID KHAN | 13 years ago | Reply Yes you are right.Some trees releases more pollens then others.Unfortunately people who decide to plant tree do not seek opinion from experts in allergy and asthma.We have an expert on Allergy and Pollens at AKU called Dr Asif Imam.He has done research on pollens and asthma in Karachi.I will request him to write something on this blog for public education.I will also request him to guide which trees are suitable for people like you who are allergic to pollens. Thank you Dr Javaid Khan
sadsid | 13 years ago | Reply Dr. Javaid, I recently attended a seminar on environment and someone there informed us that the trees that have been planted on Shahrae Faisal & these other parks, are not suited for urban areas , because their pollen exacerbates pollen allergies (also their canopies have no limit meaning they continue growing throughout their lifetime). the pollution level is Karachi is also another contributor to the asthma condition. Being an asthmatic & working on I.I.Chundrigar road is a terrible combination. Plus being in air-conditioned environments 24/7 can induce onset of an asthma attack. (P.S I'm on the Serotine inhaler)
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