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Unfortunately, asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases, with an estimated 300 million individuals affected worldwide. Australia has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, with more than two million of us affected.  It’s prevalence is continuously increasing around the world, making it one of the biggest mysteries in modern medicine.

Fortunately, asthma can be effectively treated and the vast majority of patients can achieve good control of their symptoms with proper management.

This year, on May 6 2014,  Australia Wide First Aid are teaming up with fellow ‘asthma educators’ and effected individuals to encourage asthmatics and their families to recognise what they can achieve when they take control of their asthma. 

Scientist now think of asthma control of having two components: symptom control and future risk. This means that a person’s asthma is under control when you can:

  • Have a productive, physically active life. You can work and go to school. You can exercise and participate in normal physical activities such as walking to and from the bus stop.
  • Avoid troublesome symptoms, both day and night. Your day is not interrupted by breathing problems. You do not wake up night or lose sleep because of asthma symptoms.
  • Avoid most asthma attacks. Asthma attacks are very rare when your asthma is under control. Good asthma control means you are unlikely to have a visit to the emergency department or be hospitalised because of your asthma.
  • Use little or no fast-acting reliever or rescue medication. 
  • Have normal or near normal lung function. Lung function can be monitored with spirometry or peak expiratory flow (PEF) meter.
  • Avoid most side-effects from treatment.  Many treatments are available for managing asthma. Ask your doctor which one is best for you.

How to control your asthma:

There are four simple steps you can take to control your asthma.

  1. Take your asthma medication the way the doctor says to. Most people with asthma need two types of medication; a quick-acting reliever or rescue medication that you take when you need to stop your asthma symptoms and a controller medication that you take everyday to prevent asthma symptoms.
  2. Know the causes of your asthma symptoms and how to respond to them. Each person with asthma reacts to a different set of risk factors. Take steps to avoid your asthma trigger. Your doctor may tell you to take medication before exercising or working hard if these activities cause  you asthma.
  3. Work with your doctor to control your asthma. Your doctor should be your partner in achieving and maintaining asthma control. Visit them 2 – 3 times a year for check-ups, even if your symptoms have been absent for a while. Ask them questions and make sure you continue to understand how to take your medication.
  4. Act quickly to treat asthma attacks when they occur. Know the signs when your asthma is getting worse, how to react  and when to seek emergency medical help. After a severe asthma attack, visit your doctor and review your asthma plan to prevent future attacks.

Know when your asthma is getting worse:

Your asthma can vary from day to day, over the course of weeks or months. For example, as the season starts to change, your asthma could be agitated after weeks or months of no symptoms.

Educate yourself and know the signs that your asthma is agitated or getting worse. This is an effective way to keep your asthma under control. Your asthma could be getting worse if:

  • You have more asthma symptoms. Wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, or coughing more than twice a week is a sign your asthma is worsening. Waking up a night with troubled breathing is also a sign.
  • You need your reliever medication more often than usual. If you need your rescue medication more than twice a week, you should re-visit your doctor. This is a sign your asthma is getting worse and your doctor may be able to prescribe you with more regular medication to stop your symptoms from starting.
  • You cannot do normal activities. When your asthma is under control, you can go to work, school or exercise and participate in physical activities.

By learning and watching these signs, you can control your asthma!

A bit about asthma:

Asthma is one of the most chronic lung disease worldwide. Asthma is:

  • Characterised by recurrent respiratory symptoms, especially wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing.
  • Heterogeneous – its symptoms and their intensity are different from person to person. Most people with asthma have signs of inflammation in their airways.
  • Variable – the symptoms wax and wane overtime for each individual with asthma. Measurements of lung function will also vary over time.

The causes of asthma are not well understood, and the rapid increase in prevalence around the world is one the biggest mysteries in modern medicine. In the 1990s, scientists thought that diesel exhaust and pollution might be causing the asthma epidemic. However, they now believe that the picture is more complex, differing from individual to individual.

The causes of asthma is better understood. People with asthma have chronic inflammation in their lungs and airway narrow more easily than people without asthma in response to a variety of factors, also known as triggers. Triggers can include:

  • Allergens (dust mites, pollen, cat and dog allergens)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Exercise
  • Strong emotional expression (crying, stress, laughing hard)
  • Chemical irritates
  • Certain drugs (aspirin, beta-blockers)

Each person with asthma reacts differently to each set of factors. The identification of these factors and how to avoid them is a HUGE step for an individual in learning how to control their asthma.

For more information on asthma, please visit recent articles in Australia Wide First Aid news feed, starting with: What is Asthma?

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This post was written by awfa

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