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Increasing numbers of people are suffering from Asthma

...but why, and what actually is it? Posted on: 31 Mar 08


Asthma is a significant health problem. Acording to the National Asthma Campaign, the condition continues to grow, and in the UK an estimated 8 million people are diagnosed as having asthma, with 5 million people receiving treatment. The cost of asthma to the NHS is more than £850 million a year.
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma comes into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscle around the walls of the airways tightens so that the airway becomes narrower. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Often sticky mucus or phlegm is produced. All these reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – leading to the symptoms of asthma.
How do you get it?
Asthma can start at any age. It is difficult to know what causes asthma, but we know it tends to run in families. People whose parents have asthma are more likely to develop asthma. The interaction between genetics, the environment and many aspects of our modern lifestyle have contributed to the rise in asthma:
* smoking during pregnancy increases the chance of a child developing asthma
* second-hand smoke increases the chance of developing asthma
* irritants in the workplace may lead to a person developing asthma
* environmental pollution can make asthma symptoms worse
* indoor environment - centrally heated and poorly ventilated homes have led to an increased exposure to house-dust mites and mould spores, both asthma triggers
* poor diet and an increase in obesity have been linked to asthma
* more hygienic environment has been suggested as a cause of asthma (hygiene hypothesis). International rates of asthma suggest that it is a disease of the developed world. UK has one of the highest incidences of asthma along with other developed countries such as NZ, Australia and Ireland
Who is most likely to get Asthma?
Allergies and asthma tend to run in families. If one parent has asthma, the chance of their child developing asthma is approximately double that of children whose parents don’t have asthma. A child is 35% more likely to develop asthma if the mother smokes during pregnancy. If a child is exposed to second hand smoke because both parents smoke, they are 1.5 times more likely to develop asthma.
What can you do if you get it.
To help you to control your asthma symptoms, your doctor or nurse should discuss with you the best way you can control your symptoms and as part of this should give you a written record of your asthma medicines and what to do if your symptoms get worse. At your review, ask them for an asthma medicine card and a personal asthma action plan.
Can it be cured?
There is currently no cure for asthma. However, there are some excellent treatments available to help you to control your asthma. The most effective way of taking most asthma treatments is to inhale the medicine so it gets straight into your lungs. There are a variety of inhalers available and it is important that you use a device that you are comfortable with and can use properly. Your doctor or nurse will advise you on the most appropriate device and should demonstrate how to use it correctly.

The Hygiene Hypothesis
The theory is that early exposure to certain bacteria may help children to develop effective immune systems and therefore be able to ward off allergies. Children living on farms and in close proximity with animals tend to have lower rates of asthma, as do third, fourth and fifth children in large families, where frequent infections caught from older siblings may stimulate the immune system on the infections side and reduce the risk of development of allergic conditions including asthma. More about The Hygiene Hypothesis.
Useful info:

Mike Wood

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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