Asthma: Proper management, the key to well-being
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder that affects some 2.7 million Canadians. It results from an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which makes it more difficult for air to be carried to the lungs.
Symptoms of asthma
People suffering from asthma will experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Tightness of the chest;
- Shortness of breath;
If you experience these symptoms, please see a physician.
Asthma risk factors
The causes of asthma have not been clearly established, but we do know that certain factors increase the risk of developing it. These include:
- Suffering from an atopic disease (e.g., allergies, eczema)
- Having parents (or a brother/sister) with asthma or an atopic disease
- Prolonged exposure to air pollution
- Exposure to certain workplace chemicals
Asthma attacks can be triggered by a number of factors, which vary from one person to the next:
- Allergens in the air (dust, pollen, dust mites, mould, animal dander and saliva, etc.)
- Air pollution (smog, smoke, etc.)
- Strong odours (household products, solvents, perfume, etc.)
- Intense physical activity
- Extreme emotions and stress
- Respiratory infections, such as a cold or bronchitis
- Certain medications (e.g. aspirin, certain anti-inflammatory agents)
Note: Most cases of asthma in children are due to allergies.
There is no cure for asthma. However, its symptoms can be significantly reduced, allowing you to enjoy a normal, active life.
A few measures to better control your asthma
- Understand its cause.
- Identify the factors that trigger or aggravate your symptoms and try to avoid them.
- Establish an action plan with your pharmacist or doctor and carefully follow it.
- Follow to the letter the instructions for taking your medication.
- Know how to use inhaled medication (“pump”) properly.
- Take your medication as prescribed.
Remember that by managing your asthma, you can improve your quality of life and avoid more serious and permanent damage to your respiratory tract.
Asthma medications serve to control and alleviate symptoms. When using them, you must be sure to carefully follow the recommendations made by your doctor or pharmacist. Some medications are made to be inhaled, while others are taken by mouth.
The medications prescribed most often to treat asthma are as follows:
- Inhaled anti-inflammatory agents (glucocorticosteroids): They need to be taken every day and are used to reduce inflammation and secretions. They are the foundation of asthma treatment.
- Short-acting or long-acting inhaled bronchodilators: The first quickly opens the airways and is used as a rescue medication during an attack; the second acts for a longer period and is often used in conjunction with an anti- inflammatory agent.
Other prescription drugs can be used when these two classes of drugs are not enough to ease your symptoms.
Do you have questions about your asthma treatment? Want to know if you’re using your “pumps” correctly? Speak with your family pharmacist for answers and advice.