Did you know that over two million Canadians live with asthma? People who are affected by this disease must be very thorough to limit its consequences on their well-being and quality of life. A good understanding of the issues surrounding asthma makes it easier to manage the condition.
What is asthma?
We all know someone who suffers from asthma; this disease affects 12% of children and 8% of adults. In both age groups, if it is not managed properly, asthma can have serious consequences on a person’s health. Thankfully, there are many effective treatments to control its symptoms and avoid complications.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that is manifested by breathing difficulties. These difficulties are due to inflammation, narrowing and increased sensitivity of the airways, which supply the lungs with air. Inflammation of the airways is what causes asthma symptoms, which fluctuate from one person to another and vary over time. Indeed, asthma is characterized by alternating periods of attacks, when symptoms worsen, and remissions, when symptoms diminish.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
The symptoms of asthma can be mild, moderate or severe, and can vary from one day to the next. They include:
- difficulty breathing;
- sensation of tightness in the chest;
- shortness of breath;
What are the risk factors for asthma?
Asthma is a disease whose specific cause is unknown. However, we do know that there are certain factors that can make someone more susceptible to asthma. These include:
- family history of asthma;
- low birth weight;
- multiple respiratory infections in childhood;
- exposure to second-hand smoke;
- age (although asthma can develop at any age, it is more frequent in childhood);
- frequent exposure to allergens (mites, dust, second-hand smoke, pets, mold, etc.).
In people who suffer from asthma, the lungs are more sensitive than normal to certain triggers that can destabilize the condition and cause symptoms. It is therefore important to identify what your triggers are and to take the necessary steps to avoid them. Here are some examples of asthma triggers:
- sudden temperature changes;
- exposure to the cold;
- tobacco smoke;
- strong smells and irritating products;
- air pollution;
- colds and respiratory infections;
- allergens (mites, dust, mold);
- emotions or anxiety;
A few tips to cope with asthma
If your asthma is properly managed, it should cause very few symptoms and should not interfere with your everyday activities. But how do you get there? Here are a few tips that will help you limit asthma’s impact on your well-being:
- Get as much information as possible on the disease and its treatments. The more you know about asthma, the easier it will be to manage it.
- Recognize what triggers your asthma and avoid it.
- Talk to your doctor about a plan of action you can follow when your asthma symptoms worsen and implement it when the time comes.
- Use your asthma medication as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Wash your hands properly and regularly in order to avoid respiratory infections.
Your pharmacist can be a precious source of information on asthma, on medication to treat it and on the best ways to use it, so don’t hesitate to consult him or her. Your quality of life and the management of your asthma rely on your understanding of the disease and your involvement in its treatment. A few simple steps to breathe easier!