Health Watch
  • World Asthma Day takes place on the first Tuesday of May each year
  • The theme for this year is - 'You can Control Asthma'
  • Asthma is a chronic debilitating disease that requires long-term treatment
  • Currently, there is no standard cure for asthma and managing its symptoms remains crucial
Every year, the first Tuesday of May is marked as the World Asthma Day (WAD) and this time it falls on May 3, 2016. World Asthma Day is a step taken by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to spread awareness and care about the respiratory disorder around the world.

The day was initially commemorated in 1998 by the World Asthma Foundation at the first World Asthma Meeting (WAM) held in Barcelona, Spain. The primary focus of the day is to support the persons affected by asthma and also their family members to fight against the disease and overcome it successfully.
World Asthma Day 2016 - 'You Can Control Asthma'
World Asthma Day 2016 - 'You Can Control Asthma'

From the year 2012, GINA has given the theme for WAD as "You can Control Asthma" and the sub-theme being "It's Time to Control Asthma", with the aim of reducing asthma deaths and potentially decreasing its incidence worldwide.

Asthma Statistics

  • Asthma affects 300 million people globally
  • Every year about 250,000 people die of asthma prematurely around the world
  • It is estimated that asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025
  • 14% of children have asthma while 9% of young adults are suffering from it
  • 80% of asthma deaths occur in low-income countries
  • India has 20 million asthmatics and the burden is higher than TB and HIV combined

Asthma Causes and Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder usually triggered by allergic reactions leading to difficulty in breathing due to narrowing of the bronchial passage, which carries oxygen to the lungs. It has two main components: Swelling and Inflammation. Swelling in the lungs occurs due to the accumulation of mucus in the airways and inflammation is due to tightening of the muscles around the airways.

The causes of asthma are not very well understood and studies are being conducted to know the exact cause of trigger. Several behavioral, environmental and genetic factors have been linked to its development. People having a genetic predisposition are at higher chances of developing the disease and exposure to certain allergens such as pollens, tobacco smoke, hairs of pets, air pollution, chemicals from industries are attributed to asthma triggers. Certain drugs like aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs can cause asthma.

The most prominent symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, chest tightness, recurring wheezing. As the symptoms become severe, it can lead to fatigue, sleeplessness and absenteeism, especially among children.

Coping with Asthma - Adherence is the Key

There is no standard cure for asthma, but there are some medications that can control its symptoms. Management of asthma symptoms by taking drugs, regular physician consultation and avoiding triggers are the best ways to prevent death from this chronic disease. Many pulmonologists have stressed adherence to long-term treatment as the key to reducing asthma deaths and exacerbation.

There are two types of treatments: First, getting instant relief from the symptoms at the time of triggers (relievers) and the second, is taking regular (preventer) medications to control persistent asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks.

All asthma deaths are preventable. But the main barriers to asthma control and management are:

Low adherence to long-term asthma treatment
  • Quitting medications
  • Rumors about side effects of asthma inhalers
  • Social stigma
  • Relying on instant relievers instead of preventers
Asthma patients do not continue their medications for an extended period. They quit in some months without the physician's knowledge. This worsens their condition, leading to death.

Inhaled corticosteroids are the mainstay of asthma treatment, but lots of asthmatics remain reluctant to it. Inhaled corticosteroid therapy helps control asthmatic symptoms by delivering the drugs to the lungs in small doses, potentially reducing the side-effects. But when it comes to oral asthma drugs, the dosage is higher and there are chances of the drug reaching to other parts of the body, triggering side effects.

Therefore, asthma inhalers do not pose any side effects and it is the best treatment for the disease. Preventers are mostly inhalers containing corticosteroids which help in better management of asthma, in the long run, physicians recommend this to prevent the fatality.

Also, many people think that steroids are for building muscles and confuse it with corticosteroids. It has nothing to do with muscles. These drugs only prevent inflammation in the airways and widen them for enhancing breathing.

Asthma is a non-communicable disease and it's meaningless to worry about coming in contact with the people affected. Acceptance is a crucial aspect that will encourage asthmatics to use inhalers in public.

2016 Theme - You Can Control Asthma - It's Time to Control Asthma

The theme relates to managing asthma symptoms by the affected individual. The first step in managing asthma lies on the patient shoulders. Unless or until the patient takes the initiative to stop their attacks, asthma deaths and hospitalizations cannot be reduced.

On this World Asthma Day, it's time to shatter these barriers and encourage everybody to raise awareness about the chronic condition and support people affected by the condition. Every person affected by asthma can take these little steps to keep their symptoms under check.
  • Motivate yourself to take medications daily
  • Visit the doctor regularly and ask about your improvement
  • Never believe on rumors about asthma medications
  • Take all safety measures to avoid triggers
  • Carry inhalers with you all the time and never feel shy to use it
  • Always inform the doctor if you have stopped medications
  • Don't stress and have a casual attitude towards health
It's our vital duty to support asthma patients and remove the social stigma associated with it. Therefore, support and help asthma patients by:
  • Creating awareness among children as they are the most affected
  • Educating children about asthma management in fun ways
  • Organizing free asthma screening clinics for school children
  • Accompanying your loved ones to the hospital
  • Ensuring proper medications are taken regularly
The path to asthma control is tough and needs long-term effort, but the fight against it is not very far.

References :
  1. Global Initiative for Asthma
  2. World Asthma Foundation Supports World Asthma Day and Beyond
Source: Medindia

Most Popular on Medindia