Are you or is your child and asthmatic? Frequently asked questions about this disease, answered.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease. Airflow is obstructed because of inflammation of the lower airways.
What are the symptoms?
Although one of the prime symptoms of asthma is wheezing, other diseases too can cause wheezing. So if your child wheezes it does not mean that she is asthmatic.
Asthmatics often cough in fits and starts through the day, and more often at night. The cough is persistent and is frequent during childhood, but reduces as one grows older.
Tightness of chest
Asthma is also associated with tightness in the chest, so if you are an asthmatic, there is no need to panic if you feel tightness in your chest every now and then. No, you are not getting a heart attack. If your child is asthmatic, let your child know that tightness of the chest is associated with this disease so she doesn't panic when she feels a tightness as she grows older.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath and a disturbed sleep. The symptoms are usually not persistent, and most asthmatics often have long periods during which they are symptom-free. The symptoms surface during an attack or episode of asthma.
Is there a cure for asthma?
No, there is no cure as yet for asthma. However, the symptoms can be prevented from resurfacing by taking the necessary precautions such as quitting smoking, taking medication regularly and avoiding allergens and triggers. Although the lung passages will stay inflamed, they will not obstruct your breathing if you are careful and you can remain symptom-free for the rest of your life, never developing another attack. Often the older a person gets, the fewer the attacks of asthma.
Is asthma contagious?
No, asthma is not a contagious or infection disease, and it is often hereditary. You could however catch a cold which may trigger symptoms if you are already asthmatic.
I get a cold often. Will I get asthma?
No. A cold, no matter how bad, will not and cannot lead to asthma, but if you already have asthma, a bad cold could trigger off an attack. An infant who develops asthma as a child may suffer from frequent colds because his airways are so sensitive - he has not developed the disease as a result of the frequent colds.
What kind of exercise is most suited to an asthmatic?
One of the best forms of exercises would be swimming in a warm, humid environment, because doing so does not dry up the airway. Walking and working with weights are also suitable forms of exercises for asthmatics. Jogging or running, especially in cold, dry climates, is not very suitable, as the body's demand for oxygen rises dramatically leading to heavier breathing and consequent drying of the airway passage. This could lead to a severe asthma attack.
I have asthma and am pregnant. What should I do?
Pregnant women need to be especially careful as they are breathing for two and an asthma attack may hamper the foetus's oxygen supply. It could also cause premature birth, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia. It makes sense to take an influenza vaccine if a flu has been identified as triggering off an attack. Make sure to exercise in a warm, humid environment and under supervision of your physician. Stay away from tobacco or from smoky environments. Ensure that your house is smoke-free during pregnancy, and guests can take their cigarettes to the balcony, garden or anywhere outside the home.