KARACHI: Five per cent of adults and double that number of children suffer from asthma in Pakistan and the last few decades have seen a growing increase in numbers, said Dr Nawal Salahuddin, who is an associate professor with the Department of Medicine at the Aga Khan University.
Monday was World Asthma Day and the AKU issued a press release on tips to manage the chronic condition. It is not clear why some people develop asthma and others do not but the strongest risk factors are a family history of asthma as well as environmental factors, the experts said.
Dr Naseeruddin Mahmood, a lecturer with the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at AKU, added that tobacco smoke and outdoor pollution are known asthma ‘triggers’, especially in children. Environmental pollution may lead a person to wheeze but he or she should only be diagnosed as an asthmatic after a thorough physical examination and a spirometry – lung function – test, for there are other medical conditions that can be mistaken for asthma.
According to Associate Prof Dr Ali Bin Sarwar Zubairi, a spirometry simply checks how much air you can inhale and exhale, to detect whether the airways in the lungs are narrowing, a symptom common in asthmatics.
Besides air pollution and tobacco smoke, there are many asthma ‘triggers’ that can set off an attack: pollen, cigarette smoke, chemical irritants at work, and house dust mites in bedding and carpets. Even cold air, extreme emotion, excessive physical exercise and even certain medication can be triggers. Assistant Prof Dr Muhammad Irfan mentioned that using anti-asthma medication correctly and avoiding allergens is really the cornerstone to achieving control. He emphasised that inhalers are the first line of treatment and are the safest way of delivering the medicine to the lungs. press release
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2011.