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What is Asthma? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Asthma is a chronic disease where a person suffers from shortness of breath, or breathlessness because of inflamed airways, obstructing the movement of oxygen into the lungs. The global count of Asthma patients in the year 2015 was 358 million people, of which 397,100 died. The instances of Asthma related deaths have been prevalent in developing countries. Instances of the disease have been on the rise since the 1960s but Asthma as a disease has been known as early as the ancient India, Chinese and Egyptian world. Despite Asthma being around for several centuries, there are many misconceptions about the disease. Therefore, we present you with everything there is to know about Asthma.

All about AsthmaWhat is Asthma?

Asthma is the inflammatory disease of the airway. The inner walls of an Asthma patient are normally inflamed, making them sensitive to triggers. Patients of this disease generally suffer from shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and/or chest tightness. Asthma is an incurable, chronic disease but it can be managed. If managed effectively at the onset, an Asthmatic can live a happy and healthy life. However, if Asthma is poorly regulated, it could lead to the death of the patient. An Asthmatic attack is a situation where the airways of the patient react to a trigger and get inflamed even more, blocking the airways and preventing the passage of oxygen to the lungs; there is excess mucus production during this time, which restricts the movement of air even more. To understand Asthma as a disease one needs to understand three functional facets of the disease:

  • Inflammation:

Asthmatic inflammation affects the bronchial tubes causing them to be red and swollen. Researchers and medical practitioners argue that this inflammation of the bronchial tubes causes long term damage to the lungs, thus if inflammation of bronchial tubes is regulated and controlled, one can minimise the damage caused by Asthma.

  • Obstruction of Airway:

The process of breathing in a healthy human body is carried out smoothly because the muscles surrounding the airway are relaxed. However, in a patient suffering from Asthma and exposed to allergens like pollen, animal fur or dust mites, these muscles tighten, leading to obstruction of airway and preventing the free flow of air to and from the lungs. This restricted movement of air leads to shortness of breath and wheezing.

  • Irritability in the Airway:

Asthmatic patients have very sensitive airway, which when exposed to allergens or stimulus can react immediately, causing the inflammation of airways, restriction in the passage of air, leading to an Asthmatic attack.

An individual can develop Asthma at any stage of his/her life cycle, although the most prone age group is that of infants and children and geriatrics. The development of Asthma disease depends on three factors:

  • Environment:

Researchers believe that the environment an individual has been born to plays a pivotal in the development of Asthma. Asthma at infancy or childhood depends on the exposure to the smoking habits of the parents since childbirth, before birth in case the mother smokes. Passive smoking is a huge contributor to the development of Asthma disease in children. Other environmental factors include playing on carpets as babies and inhaling carpet dust, respiratory diseases during the first three years after childbirth.

  • Allergies:

Most people suffering from severe allergic reactions to allergens like dust mites, pet fur, fumes, pollens, even cockroaches, can suffer from Asthmatic attacks, even develop Asthma because of repeated attacks. The tragedy of the situation is that in developing countries, there is no escape from such allergens, especially dust mites and cockroaches, thus such patients almost always need to carry an inhaler with them.

  • Genetics:

Like almost all chronic diseases, a predisposition to developing the disease plays a major role in the development of Asthma in individuals belonging to all age groups. Genetic studies are being carried out to link the susceptibility of certain races as well as geographical influences in the development of Asthma among individuals. Genetic studies have also revealed that each individual responds differently to the disease and its treatment.

History of Asthma:

Asthma is one of the few diseases which have a long history. Its earliest accounts emerge from 2600 BC, where it was known as the “noisy breathing disease”. There are undocumented legends of herbs which could cure the disease. Ancient Egyptian scrolls discovered by Georg Ebers and consequently named after him are believed to have been created in the 1500s BC and contained 700 remedies for complaints related to breathing, one such remedy was to inhale the fumes of the herbs heated on bricks.

However, the word “Asthma” has Greek origins, the original word was “aazein” which means panting or breathing with an open mouth. This word was first used by Hippocrates around 460 BC, it is believed that Hippocrates was the first one to recognize that Asthma attacks and environment are related. During Alexander the Great’s campaign of world conquest, smoke of a herb named “stramonium” was inhaled to help relax lungs; it is interesting to note that stramonium forms a basic ingredient of several modern day inhalers.

Arateus of Cappadocia, another Greek healer is given the credit for accurately penning down the description of the disease. As far as ancient India is concerned, because of its oral tradition it is difficult to gauge when the understanding of Asthma as a separate disease developed, or for that matter when was the treatment of Asthma discovered. However, Charaka Samhita, written during the first century AD describes the disease of “Tamaka Swasa” and its treatment. Tamaka swasa again means, noisy breathing or wheezing as we understand it today, it is said fumes of datura and stramonium were used to help ease symptoms.

The understanding of Asthma as a disease changed during the rise of modern civilization and for a long time Asthma was considered as one of the seven cardinal psychosomatic disorders. It was believed that the onset of an Asthma attack was more psychological than physical. This theory was eventually refuted, but Asthma was not recognized as an inflammatory disease till the 1960s, when anti-inflammatory drugs were used for the first time.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Asthma:

Asthma is a difficult to diagnose or even be aware of disease, a patient can go on living with Asthmatic signs without even knowing that he/she is suffering from Asthma. The patient might even change his/her lifestyle to accommodate the disease without even realizing that they are suffering from Asthma, until he/she suffers from an attack. However, there are a few symptoms of Asthma, a close inspection for signs of any of these may help diagnose Asthma:

Asthma Symptoms and Causes

  1. Wheezing
  2. Tightness in Chest
  3. Shortness of Breath/Breathlessness
  4. Chronic Cough
  5. Breathlessness while Speaking
  6. Disturbed Sleep
  7. Feelings of Panic or Anxiety
  8. Pale Face
  9. Poor Appetite

What is even more baffling about Asthma symptoms is that a person may suffer from symptoms for a couple of weeks and then recover later, followed by a relapse or an Asthma attack. Thus, it is very difficult for a doctor or a patient to even understand that they are suffering from Asthma. One way to get a clear diagnosis is for the patient to pay attention to their own bodies. If they believe, that they are showing symptoms of Asthma, they must contact their doctors and be open about their symptoms. The more in detail a patient describes his/her symptoms, the easier it is for the doctor to determine the diagnosis. Based on the patient’s description, the doctor may prescribe one or more of the following diagnostic tests for the patient:

  • Peak Flow Testing:

A do-it-yourself test at home, the peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) test is a measurement of the function of airway. Consult your doctor about how to use a peak flow meter, where basically you are required to inhale and then blow out the air into the meter as hard as you can. Peak flow measure the highest velocity of airflow you can muster, a drop in your peak flow meter reading may indicate obstruction of the airway. The peak flow testing is not the most accurate measurement, however, it can be used at home to help manage symptoms of Asthma and prevent attacks.

  • Spirometry:

Spirometry is a more advanced version of Peak Flow Testing, which is conducted at the doctor’s office. Spirometry is also a measurement of the speed and amount of air blown out by the patient. Before and after taking this test a patient is supposed to inhale a short acting medication called “bronchodilator” which is used to expand the patient’s airway to aid airflow.

  • Methacholine Challenge Test:

Methacholine challenge test is generally carried out to diagnose Asthma in an adult who has had no previous records of Asthma and starts showing symptoms of the disease. Methacholine on inhalation has a spasmodic effect on the airways of an Asthmatic. Everyone who undergoes this test is given a bronchodilator after the test to help ease their airway.

  • Chest X-Ray:

Although chest X-Rays are not really required for the diagnosis of Asthma. Some physicians may suggest this test to check if the symptoms are triggered by other factors like pneumonia.

Causes of Asthma:

It is has been difficult to ascertain that given the same environment, why some people develop Asthma, while others do not. Some researchers would argue that individuals need to have a genetic predisposition towards Asthma, which when given the necessary environment develops into the disease. Therefore, the two most probable and identified causes of Asthma are environment and genetics. However, Asthma can be triggered by several factors, here are a few Asthma Triggers:

  • Presence of Allergens:

Allergies and Asthma go hand in hand, since allergens irritate the already sensitive airways resulting in their inflammation and restriction of airflow. Allergic Asthmatic reactions can range from coughing and wheezy breath to a full blown Asthmatic attack. Asthmatics have to take special care in protecting themselves from allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, cockroaches and their dropping, and mold.

  • Infections:

Respiratory infections like Sinusitis, Cold, Flu or hay fever can trigger Asthmatic attacks in children or adults. It is believed that nearly 70% adults today, who suffer from Asthma also suffer from Sinus.

  • Medications:

Some medicines like aspirin also invoke an allergic reaction from an Asthmatic body, which could culminate into an Asthmatic attack.

  • Exercise:

High intensity workouts lead one to sweat as well as increases the breathing rate as the body demands more oxygen for the exertion. If Asthma patients do high intensity exercises, it could lead to a full blown Asthmatic attack.

  • Acidic Reflux:

While this trigger is less talked about, acidic reflux is also a major contributor to the onslaught of an Asthmatic attack among patients.

  • Stress:

The fact that Asthma was treated as the outcome of psychological issues renders that extreme emotions like stress or anger have an effect on our breathing. Stress, especially can cause episodes of mild Asthmatic attacks, which if left unmanaged, can lead to a full blown Asthma attack.

  • Food:

Allergic reactions to certain food products like soy, milk, nuts and so on can also take the form of an asthmatic attack, as allergies irritate the throat, which could lead to the inflammation of airways and constriction of airflow.

Asthma as a disease is mostly prevalent in infants and babies, and generally onsets from an early age, however, there are several cases of diagnosis of Asthma in adulthood even when the patient has had no history of the disease. With the current lifestyle and exposure to large amounts of SPM and fumes, Asthma is becoming a very common disease, however, it is interesting to note that each age group has a different reason or cause behind the development of Asthma disease. Here is a brief summary of causes of Asthma in different age groups:

1. Causes of Asthma in Babies / Infants:

Causes of Asthma in BabiesSo far, no studies have been able to understand why infants develop Asthma, but occurence of Asthma in infants less than 24 months old is steadily on the rise globally. Since no tests can expertly ascertain the presence of Asthma at such a young age. Generally, a physician looks for other symptoms of Asthma along with wheezing. Proposed causes of development of Asthma in infants include:

  • Breathing in carpet dander
  • Pet dander
  • SPM in the environment around the infant
  • Genetic susceptibility (including race)
  • Cockroach waste
  • Tree Pollen
  • Passive smoking/ Exposure to cigarette smoke from both or one parent.

2. Causes of Asthma in Children:

Causes of Asthma in ChildrenGlobally speaking, childhood Asthma has been steadily on the rise since 1980s. Asthma during childhood has several detrimental effects on the development of the child, for one it prevents the child’s physical development by limiting his/her physical activity. There are several causes for the development of Asthma in children:

  • Allergens in the air like dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.
  • Contraction of respiratory tract infections like cold, flu or Sinus.
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Family history of Asthma
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Exposure to factory fumes
  • Delayed recovery from cough or cold
  • History of severe allergic reactions
  • Obesity in childhood
  • Sex and Race (Men, especially, African, Mexican, and Asians)

3. Causes of Asthma in Adults:

Causes of Asthma in AdultsDiagnosis of Asthma in adults over the age of 20 years who have otherwise had no history is known as Adult-Onset Asthma. While childhood development of Asthma is rooted in allergies or immunity, adult onset Asthma could be rooted in bad work conditions or lifestyle. Probable causes of Adult Onset Asthma are:

  • Working conditions: Asthma induced because of the physical environment at one’s work place is known as Workplace Asthma. Adults working in the construction industry, printing press and so on can develop workplace Asthma.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), is the reflux reaction where stomach acids travel up the esophagus, irritating the food pipe and causing a burning sensation in the chest area and the throat. This kind of reflux is prevalent in adults of the 21st century owing to long work hours, compromised sleep, untimely intake of heavy food, and stress.
  • Exposure to environmental irritants like mold, dust, smoke, and pollen.
  • Hormonal changes, women may suffer from adult-onset Asthma during severe hormonal changes like menopause or pregnancy. Some women who take hormone shots, post menopause, may also suffer from adult-onset Asthma.
  • The habit of smoking, adults who smoke compromise the health of their lungs, making them prone to most irritants, seasonal allergies, and other viral or bacterial diseases.

Asthma in elderly is even more difficult to diagnose as most doctors mistakenly diagnose Asthma as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, as the body grows old, its normal body functions are compromised, making the Asthma even worse.

Different Types of Asthma:

Asthma as a disease can be divided according to the source of development of Asthma, cause based Asthma or severity based Asthma. While one typification focuses on the human body, the second typification focuses on triggers and the third focuses on the frequency of Asthma attacks in a patient. A cumulative understanding of all of these typifications can lead to a holistic understanding of the disease. Here is a brief understanding of types of Asthma:

  • Intrinsic Asthma:

Intrinsic Asthma is also known as Adult-Onset Asthma, and generally develops in adults over the age of 30. This type of Asthma is called “intrinsic” because the Asthma is not induced by some external allergens or triggers but induced because of a change in the internal body functions of the individual. Pregnancy, menopause, obesity and so on are the bodily changes which trigger Asthma. Cases of intrinsic Asthma are very rare. An example of intrinsic Asthma is:

a. Stress Induced Asthma:

Stress Induced Asthma is a great example of intrinsic Asthma. Stress leads to hormonal changes in the body, it contracts muscles, increases heartbeat, increases blood pressure, even causes insomnia such physical changes also put a stress on the airway, because stressed individuals or individuals who are panicking start breathing heavily, all these internal reactions can lead to the onset of an Asthma attack.

  • Extrinsic Asthma:

Extrinsic Asthma generally develops in children and takes the form of allergic reactions, that is when the Asthma attack is induced because of external environmental sources. It is speculated that over 70% of children suffering from Asthma, also suffer from some type of allergy. Extrinsic Asthma can be subdivided into trigger source Asthma types:

Occupational Asthma:

Occupational Asthma is a type of extrinsic asthma which is also adult-onset Asthma. This kind of Asthma ideally develops in an adult body when one is exposed to allergens in the line of his/her work. A person may be allergic to chlorine, rats, cockroaches, birds, tree pollen and hence cannot work in fields which can lead to a direct exposure to these allergens. Asthma in the line of work could also be induced due to the inhalation of toxic fumes or excess dust, from construction sites, or printing press.

Infection Induced Asthma:

Infection induced Asthma is another example of Asthma displaying both intrinsic and extrinsic qualities. Infections are caused when pathogens (viruses or bacteria), attach to a host and start extracting resources from him/her, inciting a counter-reaction from the body’s immune system. Infection induced Asthma is caused by upper respiratory infections contracted by an individual which irritate the airways and restrict the passage of air.

  • Severity Based Asthma:

Severity of Asthma sets the tone of the future life and activities of the patient. There are 4 levels of severity:

1. Intermittent Asthma:

The symptoms of Asthma do not last for more than 2 times a week in the patient, primarily children. The patient does not feel any discomfort between periods of Asthmatic flare ups, and nighttime Asthmatic symptoms are not more than two times in a month.

2. Mild Persistent Asthma:

The patient exhibits symptoms for more than two times a week, but does not suffer daily. Some day-to-day activities of the patient may be affected, between periods of Asthmatic flare ups. Nighttime Asthmatic Symptoms are greater than two times a month but not more than once a week.

3. Moderate Persistent Asthma:

The patient suffers from Asthmatic symptoms nearly everyday and has to use his/her emergency medicines everyday. Day-to-day activities of the individual are hampered due to frequent episodes of asthmatic attacks. Nighttime Asthmatic symptoms are greater than once every week.

4. Severe Persistent Asthma:

Symptoms surface several times a day and activities of the individual are severely hampered with chronic episodes of asthmatic flare ups. Nighttime symptoms also become frequent in a week.

Complications of Asthma:

Asthma rarely has fatal complications, even when oxygen levels in the human body have gone dangerously low, Asthma rarely causes direct death. However it does have several other complications which can give rise to fatal diseases. Some of those complications are:

  • Developmental Challenges:

Children suffering from Asthma are asked to keep physical activities at a minimal, this lack of physical activity may lead to developmental challenges, where the child is not able to physically grow to his/her potential. Mental and emotional development of such a child is also restricted. If a child suffers from chronic Asthma, his/her brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, leading to the development of learning and cognitive disabilities.

  • Disturbed Sleep/Fatigue:

Asthma is most active at night time, several patients suffer from at-night Asthma symptoms, which makes them feel suffocated as soon as they lie down, or their sleep keeps breaking all night due to Asthma induced breathlessness. This lack of sleep leads to the development of dark circles, migraines, disturbance in digestive process, emotional and mental instability, and fatigue which if left unchecked may develop into chronic fatigue syndrome.

  • Lack of Exercise:

While lack of physical activity in children may lead to developmental issues, lack of physical activity coupled with the working class lifestyle may put adults at risk for other potentially fatal chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes. It should also be noted that lack of exercise also leads to obesity, which in turn can again trigger chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, PCOS, thyroid and so on.

  • Depression:

Asthma leads to sleeplessness, which leads to fatigue, which leads to emotional turmoil or mood swings, because the brain doesn’t get sufficient oxygen. When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen to function properly, it also leads to chemical imbalance in the brain and this imbalance could affect the mental health of a patient, leading to stress, anxiety and depression.

  • Complications Due to Regular Use of Medicines:

Most Asthma medication are either supposed to be inhaled or taken orally, via certain devices to clear the airway. These devices, if not cared for properly may becomes sites, which could lead to several complications like Oral Yeast Infestation and Throat Irritation. Higher dosage of Asthma medicines, may also cause an acidic reflux leading to the development of GERD in the patient.

  • Structural Changes In The Airway:

Though it is rare, but Asthma on certain occasions can bring about structural changes in the airways, this could lead to permanent thickening of the airway, limiting the lung’s access to oxygen. Airway relaxants won’t be much effective with structural changes, this limited access to oxygen leads to the development of excess mucus in the lungs, it can also lead to the flowing of excess of blood in the airway.

  • Respiratory Failure:

Though death due to respiratory failure is rare, as Asthma is a manageable disease, however, patients suffering from severe chronic Asthma are at risk of gradual lung failure. Lung function failure can be fatal for patients.

  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s:

Though the relationship between Asthma and Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease is less talked about it is a fact that the former has a direct influence to the development of the latter. Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is gradual brain decay, due to a loss in the supply of adequate oxygen to the brain. Thus, patients with Asthma are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Related Read: Alzheimer’s Disease Infographic

Asthma Facts and Figures India:

The Indian scenario has changed rapidly in the past few years, with Delhi choking on smog, Mumbai choking on the dumping yard fire that refused to die down for days in the end, and with Bengaluru witnessing harmful fumes emanating from the fire roaring inside the froth of lakes, India is slowly going the way China already has. This also means that more and more children and adults are being exposed to lung damaging or airway irritating chemicals on all days throughout the year. In fact, today, the national capital of India is also a man-made citywide gas chamber, research reports on the rise of case of compromised lung function speak as much. As of 2016, researchers claim that 15-20 million children and adults in India suffer from Asthma, making India one of the top countries with incidences of Asthma. Another report, also claims that the demand for Asthma controlling drugs in India rose by 43% in the past four years, the year 2016 itself saw a rise by 15%.

The year 2017, saw an exponential demand for air purifiers, not just in the national capital, but across major and minor cities in India including, Mumbai, Bengaluru, even Patna.

If one looks at the data, one realizes that allergens and other causes contribute to just one portion of these rising cases in Asthma, most patients suffer from Asthma because they were exposed to and inhaled high amounts of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM). It is noteworthy, that SPM is believed to be the cause behind the smog situations in the national capital.

Treatment Options for Asthma:

Before we start discussing all possible treatments for Asthma, we need to understand that modern medicine has rendered Asthma as an incurable disease. Once a person develops Asthma, they will always remain susceptible to Asthma attacks, though it is possible that with timely treatment, episodes of Asthmatic attacks could be managed. While most people focus on the myriad options of symptom management offered by modern medicine, we would also like to explore alternative medicine and their claims as well as output. Here are a few treatment options for Asthma:

  • Allopathy:

Allopathic medicine do not “treat” Asthma, but more or less focus on controlling the symptoms of the disease. To regulate symptoms of Asthma patients are asked to identify their triggers and avoid them. Apart from avoiding triggers, asthmatic patients are provided with two kinds of medications:

1. Quick Relief Medication:

Short relief medication focuses on easing out the airway in case a patient suffers from acute asthma symptoms. Quick relief medicines can be inhaled used through a nebulizer or inhaler. If the situation is dire, these medications can also be applied intravenously.

2. Long Term Medication:

Long term medication are regular dosage of symptom controlling medicines a patient must either inhale or take orally to prevent symptoms on a daily basis, these medicines also help prevent asthmatic attacks. However, long term Asthma medicines have side-effects, and it is possible that the body builds a resistance to a regularly used drug, hence, the application of these medicines is closely monitored by the physician.

  • Home Remedies for Asthma:

Indian culture is said to be a continuous culture of 5000 years, it is but natural that every household would have a few home remedies to help ease the symptoms of a disease as old as the Indian culture itself. Here are a few home remedies to control symptoms of Asthma:

Ginger:

Ginger is known to be a superfood, it has multiple health benefits one of which is that ginger also helps in reducing the inflammation of the airway. Ginger can be taken in several forms, like chewing ginger with salt daily, 1 Tbsp of ginger juice mixed with equal amounts of pomegranate and honey to be taken daily, boiling ginger in water and then drinking that water daily.

Eucalyptus Oil:

Eucalyptus oil helps in easing out blocked noses, it also helps ease out coughing. Pour some eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief and keep it near your pillow at night, so that you can inhale eucalyptus as you sleep, alternatively, a few drops of eucalyptus oil can be dropped in boiling water and the patient can inhale the steam.

Mustard Oil:

Heat some mustard oil with some camphor and rub on the back and chest to help ease out symptoms. Mustard oil helps in warming your body as well as clearing the airway.

Fig:

Fig again is a superfood, it helps boost respiratory health as well as clear phlegm (mucus produced by lower respiratory parts, and not sinus or nose). Soak figs overnight in water, in the morning, drink the fig water as well as eat the figs.

Coffee:

Caffeine in coffee acts like a bronchodilator and helps in easing out symptoms of Asthma. Hot coffee eases out the airway, in fact, the stronger the coffee the more effective it would be. However, patients should be cautious about drinking more than two cups of coffee in a day, as too much of coffee can lead to other health problems.

Related Read: 10 Tips for Asthmatics During Winters

  • Ayurveda:

Known as “Shwas Roga” in Ayurveda, Asthma is believed to be an imbalance between the “kapha dosha” combines with “pranvayu” creating an imbalance. Ayurveda recognizes five types of shwas roga:

Tamak Shwas:

The description for Tamak shwas resembles the description of the symptom of wheezing.

Chinna Shwas:

Chinna Shwas roughly translates to interrupted breathing which loosely resembles the symptom description for nighttime Asthma.

Maha Shwas:

The “maha” in maha shwas literally means big or large, loosely translate, maha shwas would be similar to heavy breathing.

Shudra Shwas:

Shudra Shwas is referred to the breathlessness caused due to activity, in ayurveda this symptom is also regarded as the symptom which subsides on its own once the individual takes rest.

Urdhwa Shwas:

Urdha shwas describes to the difficulties faced by a patient, suffering from phlegm cumulation in the lungs. This is marked by snoring caused by blocked nose.

Treatment in Ayurveda:

Ayurveda focuses on healing the body holistically, so that the balance of elements in restored in the body and it is healthy and functional. However, Asthma as a disease, has not found a complete cure in Ayurveda either, but there are certain exercises and medicines which can help deal with the symptoms of Asthma, without causing major side effects. Some treatment methods include:

Exercise: Yoga poses and Pranayam:

Yoga positions like dhanurasan, bhujangasana, sarvangasan along with pranayams like kapalbhati and surya bheda help patients with asthma.

Herb: Ashvagandha:

Ashvangadha helps treat fevers, boosts immunity and is anti-inflammatory. It is herbal and hence naturally safe, however, consult your physician before starting on the medicine.

Herb: Chayavanprasha:

Chayavanprasha is a herbal concoction made of several herbs, it is a holistic medicine which helps boost immunity and protect the body from contracting diseases and infections.

Therapy: Sudation:

As discussed before, sudation therapy is the therapy where lukewarm sesame or mustard oil is rubbed on the chest and back of the patient to help ease their airway.

Therapy: Snehan:

Snehan therapy is inhaling eucalyptus oil infused steam. This helps unclog the airways of a patient.

There are several more therapies, herbs and yoga positions available, which can help manage asthma in a patient, consult your physician for all possible options.

  • Homeopathic Treatment for Asthma:

Homeopathy like its ayurvedic counterpart focuses on healing the body as a whole but unlike ayurveda, homeopathy works on the principle of sameness i.e. “like negates like”. This fundamental belief of homeopathic practitioners dictates that no two individuals will have the same source, reason or symptoms of Asthma, thus homeopathic treatment is highly customised. It is also known that homeopathic medicines are safe and have no side-effects, however, since the treatment is customised, it is suggested to consult a practitioner before starting on any medicines.

Managing An Asthma Attack in The Absence of An Inhaler:

There may come certain situations in an Asthmatic’s life when they suffer an Asthma attack but have no quick relief inhaler in the vicinity, it is important to remember that an asthma attack could be managed long enough to ask for help. Here a few things you can do:

  1. Move away from the trigger.
  2. Sit down straight and loosen all fitting clothes
  3. Use the Buteyko Method of breathing that is take shorter breaths and let exhale through pursed lips.
  4. Asthma attacks can trigger panic and anxiety, try and stay calm, hold onto something or someone who keeps you calm.
  5. Drink coffee.
  6. Inhale steam, preferably with eucalyptus oil.
  7. Ask for help to reach the Emergency Room if the attack symptoms have not subsided for over 10 minutes since the onset of the attack.

Related Read: The Correct Inhaler Technique to Manage Asthma

Exercise & Diet for Asthma Patients:

Asthma patients do not have severe diet restrictions as such however, most patients are asked to follow a mediterranean diet which is believed to help control and regulate symptoms of Asthma. A mediterranean diet ideally consists of:

  • Fish which are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids along with vitamin D.
  • Fruits and Vegetables, including green leafy vegetables which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and beta carotenes.
  • Milk and Eggs are also included in the diet.
  • Along with the food, Asthmatics should stay active and hence engage in moderately intense exercises like walking.
  • Calming exercises like Yoga and Meditation can also contribute to an Asthma patient’s health.
  • Asthma patients who are obese must also try and reduce their weight.

Avoid:

Asthma patients should avoid the intake of the following:

1. Sulfites

2. Food that create gas like beans

3. Foods with preservatives and artificial colouring and flavouring

4. Fast food

Asthma Myths and Facts

Myth: You can outgrow your Asthma

Fact: With regular medications, the correct diet and exercise one can control their Asthma so well that symptoms either show up regularly or not at all, but Asthma is a lifelong disease and it cannot be cured, neither does it disappear with time.

Myth: Asthma is a modern disease

Fact: Asthma is probably one of the earliest diseases to be recorded and managed. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and Indians knew about Asthma.

Myth: Asthma is not fatal

Fact: A recent study by a charity called Asthma UK proved that almost 3 people in UK die because of Asthma attacks.

Myth: You need Asthma medication only when you show symptoms

Fact: Asthma medication has to be taken regularly, these help control and prevent symptoms of asthma attack, periodic use of medication may lead to the building up of resistance for those medicines in the body.

Myth: Long term Asthma medicines do not work.

Fact: Long term Asthma medicines are generally taken with regular inputs and consultation from the doctor, which means that the dosage is adjusted from time to time, ensuring that medicines work for long term.

News on Asthma:

1. Air Pollution Causes Early Death:

– 31st May 2018

A recent study conducted by Centre for Environment and Energy Development and Indian Institute of Technology- Delhi, states that the SPM levels in cities across north India contribute to 150-300 cases of early death per one lakh deaths.The research paper named “Know What You Breathe” took samples from 11 north Indian cities like Agra, Lucknow, Ranchi, Patna and so on.

Of these cities only Ranchi was close to the government of India’s set standard of acceptable suspended particulate matter (SPM) levels in the air. Every other city reported of alarmingly high levels of SPM, this in the light of the fact that the Indian standards are much more lax as compared to the global WHO standards does not bode well for Indian citizens.

In the last seventeen years, SPM has steadily increased in these 11 studies, especially Varanasi where SPM has increased annually by ~2 microgram per cubic meter. Further investigations revealed, that exposure to such high levels of pollutants in the air has contributed to 150-300 early deaths per one lakh deaths.

While the number may seem small per lakh, when multiplied to match the Indian population levels, this is almost an epidemic. Having said that, researchers admit that the largest cause of pollution belongs to household appliances and heating followed by exhaust fumes from cars.

They have also warned that if immediate remedies are not employed to improve the air quality of these 11 cities, the residents would soon feel the same health issues as the citizens of the national capital.

2. Diet and Development of Asthma are Linked:

– 9th July 2018

Recently the review journal Respirology published a review of 11 studies, all of which have asserted the surprising correlation between food and development of symptoms of Asthma or other allergies. So, far the world has been led to believe that Asthma whether chronic or acute arises due to genetics, SPM, allergens in the incumbents environment and so on. Lifestyle has also been cited as a reason in places but this new research review claims that fast food is one of the primary reasons for the development of acute allergic reactions like Asthma. In fact, it has been shown that a hamburger is the primary allergen in the chain of fast foods causing allergies and allergic reactions which lead to Asthma.

The study further states that modern diet preferences along with modern lifestyle and environmental pollution responsible for severe allergic reactions which lead to the development of symptoms of acute asthma along with other allergic reactions like rhino conjunctivitis, wheeze, pollen fever and eczema.


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