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BEST OF HEALTH: Don’t fool around with asthma

Lisa King

BEST OF HEALTH: Don’t fool around with asthma

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Asthma is not a condition of minor importance; it should be taken seriously.
Rosita Pollard, president of the Asthma Association of Barbados, said there was a lack of basic education among most Barbadians about asthma, its triggers and control methods.
She explained that not very many Barbadians were aware of the causes and what triggered an asthmatic flare-up, that it was only when someone died from an asthma attack that people realized the condition could kill.  
Last Tuesday Barbados joined the world in recognizing World Asthma Day 2011 under the theme You Can Control Your Asthma. The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) organized World Asthma Day and this year the emphasis was on asthma management and control. GINA stated that an estimated 300 million individuals were affected worldwide and its prevalence was increasing, especially among children.
Asthma affects 18 to 20 per cent of the children in Barbados, with over 10 000 children visiting the Asthma By at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital every year. The condition also accounts for 12 to 14 deaths per year.  
Pollard explained that pollution, the Sahara dust and the indiscriminate burning of rubbish across the island had been identified as major contributors to the increasing number of people developing asthma. She also revealed that not many people had mastered the technique of using their inhalers or medication properly in order to control asthma.   
“We recommend the spacing devices because we realize that some people are not getting enough medicine into their lungs. It guarantees that they would get medicine directly to the lungs because when most people use the inhaler by itself a lot of them cannot coordinate so the medicine is not taken in,” she said.
In addition, Pollard called for people to understand the triggers of the condition and desist from behaviour that would cause problems for those with the condition.  
“Stop burning indiscriminately as if you do not know how it affects people. We want to plead with people to stop this practice.”
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the body’s airways. Chronically inflamed airways become obstructed and airflow is limited by bronchoconstriction, mucus plugs, and increased inflammation when airways are exposed to various risk factors.
Common risk factors for asthma symptoms include exposure to allergens such as those from house dust mites, animals with fur, cockroaches, pollens, and mould, occupational irritants, tobacco smoke; respiratory (viral) infections; exercise; strong emotional expressions such as laughing or crying hard; chemical irritants; and drugs such as aspirin and beta blockers.
Common signs and symptoms of asthma include recurrent wheezing, coughing, trouble breathing, chest tightness, symptoms that occur or worsen at night, symptoms that are triggered by cold air, exercise or exposure to allergens.