Disease management: Dry winter spell hikes woes of asthmatics

Young asthma patients suffer psychologically too as they are unable to enjoy the weather

APP October 27, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Medical experts on Friday said that winters are always terrifying for chronic asthma patients.

Youngsters with a history of asthma suffer psychologically too, as they are unable to enjoy the weather and find themselves bogged down by dry and cold weather that is known to trigger asthmatic attacks.

"Lungs and air passages of asthma patients are already sensitive. In winter, when they come in contact with cold dry air and various kinds of viruses, they trigger asthma seizures. In winters, hospitals do see a jump in admissions due to asthma," ENT specialist Dr Javed Akbar highlighted.

Dr Akbar said that the children whose diets were low in vegetables and vitamin E were two to three times more likely to develop asthmatic symptoms than other children irrespective of other factors such as family size, affluence and parental smoking.

He explained: "Asthma can be a complicated issue to tackle and the process of managing asthma is continuous".

Early mornings and evenings are full of dust motes and mites that trigger asthma seizures. It is better that children with a history of asthma do not venture out during early hours.

“There is a definite lack of awareness about the ailment: simple precautions are enough for its management," said specialist. He further said rapid changes in the weather, especially the rapid onset of cold weather, are directly responsible for decreased lung function in asthmatics.

Cold, dry air irritates the tissue in the lungs of an asthmatic, causing bronchospasms. These spasms, or constrictions, occur around the bronchial tubes and make breathing difficult. Often, excess mucous is also produced, further limiting breathing and causing wheezing and coughing, he added.

"To help stay safe and healthy it is important to take control of asthma in winter before problems occur," said Dr Akbar mentioned.

Physicians say inhalers for asthma management are one's best bet when compared to oral pills or tablets, which actually contain more amount of medication. Specialists say oral tablets are required in large doses, because they first have to dissolve in blood and then reach organs like the lungs.

Cold and flu season is starting too, Dr Akbar said, adds, when kids go back to school, they often bring home viruses, which are some of the most common asthma triggers.

Incorrect medication is the leading cause of asthma attacks, emergency department visits and hospital admissions, according to expert.

Dr Akbar said asthma affects around 20 percent of school-aged children.

He said that while the condition cannot be cured, it can be controlled and continued medical care is an important part of the equation.

He said parents to know that allergies develop over time with continued exposure to allergens, so a child's asthma may change over time. It is also important for parents to know that while allergies can make asthma worse, not all children with asthma have allergies.

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. He was giving tips to manage the chronic condition.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2018.


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