When Asthma calls

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By Denrele Animasaun

“Life gives us brief moments with another…but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a life time…

Last week was a hard time for my colleagues in the Vanguard office.  Although I was not physically present, I felt their loss nonetheless. Our entertainment editor, Ogbonna Amadi succumbed to asthma related complications. His death was so sudden that colleagues can barely take in his absence.

In my line of work as a public health specialist, we experience loss both professionally and personally as part of life cycle, still it does not make it any easier.

We were told that Ogbona Amadi succumbed to complications related asthma. The symptoms he complained of – feeling cold, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest and coughing.  He was rushed to the clinic but they were unable to save him.

Asthma may seem relatively manageable but can prove fatal.  His death really hit home as in the last three years, people close to me had lost their loved ones. One friend lost her young son another friend lost her partner, he was 42 years old.  I also have a vested interest as my children have asthma.

I understand that the subject matter is not one that some people like to engage in especially not long after a loss. But I come from the camp that knows that knowledge is power.

So what do we know about asthma? Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.

Black people have the highest asthma prevalence of any racial group. It  is   a  long  term  condition,  that   affects  the  lungs   and  inflames and  narrows   the  airways. One   may experience wheezing or whistling   breathing   sounds, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

While all of the causes of asthma remain unclear, research   has shown that   children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at increased risk for acute lower respiratory tract infections. Black people are three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the White population.

The exact cause of asthma isn’t known. Though studies shown that there are some inherited component and environmental factors that interact to cause asthma, most often early in life.

If asthma runs in the family, exposure to irritants for instance, smoke inhalation may cause one   to react adversely   to airborne substances.

Signs  and symptoms of asthma include: Coughing, wheezing  like a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when breathing, chest tightness  that may  feel  like  squeezing or  a  heavy  weight  on ones chest  with shortness of breath.

Some people who have asthma say they can’t catch their breath or they feel out of breath. Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Likewise, having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma. The best way to diagnose asthma for certain is to use a lung function test, a medical history (including type and frequency of symptoms) and a physical examination.

Severe symptoms can be fatal. It’s important to treat symptoms when you first notice them so they don’t become severe.

With proper treatment, most people who have asthma can expect to have few, if any, symptoms either during the day or at night.

The key is to be aware of trigger or worsen asthma symptoms that may cause your asthma to flare up. Triggers may include: allergens from dust, animal fur, cockroaches, mould, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers.

Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust in the workplace, compounds in home décor products and sprays such as hairsprays, air fresheners or perfumes or physical activity, including exercise. Medicines such as aspirin or other no steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and non-selective beta-blockers can also trigger an attack.

Sulphites in foods and drinks or viral upper respiratory infections, such as colds.

Other health conditions can make asthma harder to manage; such as a runny nose; sinus infections, reflux disease, psychological stress, and sleep apnoea.

You may need more than one kind of medicine or higher doses of medicine to control your asthma, or if you have overall problems getting your asthma well controlled

Asthma is a long-term disease that can’t be cured. The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease.

Good asthma control will: prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, reduce your need for quick-relief medicines, and help you maintain good lung function. It should let you maintain your normal activity level and sleep through the night and day time.

It should prevent or reduce asthma attacks that could result in an emergency room visit or hospital stay.

Asthma is treated with two types of medicines: long-term control and quick-relief medicines. Long-term control medicines help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.

Proper treatment makes a big difference in preventing both short-term and long-term complications caused by asthma.

The following guidelines are suitable for both children and adults and are the recommended steps to follow in an asthma attack.

Crucially, it is important that your doctor confirms that you have asthma. A definite diagnosis goes hand in hand with a proper individualised asthma treatment plan.

Then, with the help of  your doctor, have  an  asthma plan  in  place ,in   case   you  get   an   attack  or  it  worsens.

Before you start any asthma treatment, be  aware  of  what  your  triggers  are   and  what   to   do  in  terms  of  treatment.

Elicit   support  from  family, friends  and  colleagues about  your asthma  and  tell them  what  to  do  in case of  a  asthma  attack.

Share with them signs and symptoms   of an asthma attacks that   may indicate   your asthma is getting worse.

Be  aware  of  what  to  look for that  your  condition  is  getting  worse when  you  are  needing more and more reliever medicine, or  you  feel like your asthma medicines, is  not working as well as they normally do, or  you  are constantly waking at night with coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or tightness of  the  chest.

Should  you  have  an  attack and  you  have used   your  medication and  it   does  not  relive your   condition  and   you  are   finding it  difficult  to breath  and becoming   wheezy and  short  of  breaths   contact   the  emergency  service as   soon  as  possible.  If   the  attack    should   subside after   administering  your  medication  ,it  is  imperative  to   schedule  an  appointment   with   your  doctor  or  the  asthma  nurse within  24  hours.

What may   reduce and help your condition includes diet. Try to follow a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; cut   down on  salt, drink plenty of water,  maintain  a  healthy  weight, maintain regular exercise regime. Some people with asthma find that exercise triggers symptoms.

However, exercise is good for everyone, including people with asthma. If exercise is a trigger for your asthma use your (blue) reliever inhaler about five to ten minutes before you start exercising and keep it close at hand at all times.

May  I  take  the  opportunity  to express my   heartfelt  condolences  to  the  Amadi friends, collegues  and   family  and  may  the  good Lord  give  them  strength to  bear  their  loss.

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