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Friday, 28 December 2012 11:40

Asthma - A life-long disease

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Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system which affects the small airways (bronchioles) that carry air in and out of the lungs.
Dr Soobraj Mundhoo from the Ministry of Health was invited on Explik ou Cas Santé on Radio Plus to talk on the disease. He stated that a patient can suffer from asthma for life though the symptoms may vary.

A person having asthma will have his airways inflamed, swollen and constricted (or narrowed) and excess mucus is produced. “Asthma is a disease which affects the respiratory system whereby the person starts having breathing problems and this leads to an inflammation of the bronchioles,” says Dr Soobraj Mundhoo.

He adds that there are several symptoms that help identify an asthma patient namely breathing problems, pains in the ribs, cough (with or without phlegm) and snoring. However, Dr Mundhoo points out that asthma is a chronic disease: “A person can be an asthmatic patient for life but this does not imply that he will have all the symptoms all along. And these symptoms are not alike for all patients. The disease can manifest again at any age.”

Risk factors

“If the parents are not asthma patients, the child runs only 10% risk of developing the disease. However, if the mother or father is an asthma patient, the risk increases to 25%. If both are asthma patients, then the risk reaches 50%. We also notice that in children below 14 years old, the percentage of asthma patients is higher among boys than among girls but above 14 years old, the percentage of girls having asthma is higher than boys. Women are more at risk than men,” explains Dr Mundhoo.

He adds that alcohol is not a direct danger for an asthma patient but cigarette smoking is: “An asthma patient should avoid cigarette smoking or be near smokers. Cigarette and its smoke are very innocious to asthma sufferers.
According to Dr Mundhoo, all doctors are trained to treat asthma but if the disease persists, the patients are advised to consult specialists.

Asthma triggers

There are several trigger factors and this depends on the individual. If a person breathes in an allergen such as dust or pollen grains, or if the person has a viral infection (flu or cold) his airways will have an inflammation (red and swollen). If a person breathes in an allergen which triggers asthma symptoms (cold air or smoke) or if he does physical exercises, the muscles which surround the airways contract and constrict, leaving little space for air circulation. It is important for every patient to identify the triggers so as to avoid them.

Chronic asthma

Chronic asthma is a condition which generally exists since childhood and manifests itself during the early years by repeated asthma attacks.

Asthma and sports

Asthma does not contraindicate sports. On the contrary, physical exercise helps improve the respiratory system and represents an important aid for the treatment of asthma.

Swimming, cycling and hiking are recommended activities for asthma patients while rugby, volleyball and basketball as well as equitation are not. The only sport which is not allowed for asthma patients is scuba diving. The patients are advised to warm up well before starting an exercise and to always have their dilators with them to avoid post-exercise asthma.
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