Think you or someone you know might have asthma? It is possible to have the condition without knowing it especially if the symptoms are mild or atypical.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Asthma affected an estimated 262 million people in 2019 (1) and caused 455 000 deaths globally.
Here are some signs to look out for, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
1. A persistent cough
3. Shortness of breath
4. Chest tightness making breathing deeply difficult
Key Facts About Asthma
• Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease (NCD), affecting both children and adults, and is the most common chronic disease among children.
• Inflammation and narrowing of the small airways in the lungs cause asthma symptoms, which can be any combination of cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
• Avoiding asthma triggers can also help to reduce asthma symptoms.
• Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries, where under-diagnosis and under-treatment is a challenge.
What Causes Asthma?
Many factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma, although it is often difficult to find a single, direct cause.
• Asthma is more likely if other family members also have asthma – particularly a close relative, such as a parent or sibling.
• Asthma is more likely in people who have other allergic conditions, such as eczema and rhinitis (hay fever).
• Urbanization is associated with increased asthma prevalence, probably due to multiple lifestyle factors.
• Events in early life affect the developing lungs and can increase the risk of asthma. These include low birth weight, prematurity, exposure to tobacco smoke and other sources of air pollution, as well as viral respiratory infections.
• Exposure to a range of environmental allergens and irritants are also thought to increase the risk of asthma, including indoor and outdoor air pollution, house dust mites, moulds, and occupational exposure to chemicals, fumes or dust.
• Children and adults who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of asthma.
Asthma cannot be cured but there are several treatments available. The most common treatment is to use an inhaler, which delivers medication directly to the lungs.
Inhalers can help control the disease and enable people with asthma to enjoy a normal, active life.
There are two main types of inhaler:
• bronchodilators (such as salbutamol), that open the air passages and relieve symptoms; and
• steroids (such as beclometasone) that reduce inflammation in the air passages, which improves asthma symptoms and reduces the risk of severe asthma attacks and death.