ASTHMA CAUSES - FAQS AND SUPPORT

1. WHAT CAUSES ASTHMA?

Scientists are not very sure why some people have asthma and others don't. In some cases, a family history is the main cause of asthma. If a parent has asthma, the child is likely to inherit it. If both parents have it, the chances of the child getting asthma will be much higher.

In some, other factors may also be involved which are called 'triggers'. A trigger is anything that irritates the airways and causes the symptoms of asthma. Dust and smoke, pollen from plants, physical exertion and exercise, hair of furry animals and bird feathers, intense emotions, certain food additives and preservatives are some common asthma triggers.

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What are asthma triggers?

2. DOES ASTHMA COME AND GO OR IS IT ALWAYS THERE?

The symptoms of asthma i.e. tightness of chest, breathlessness, coughing and wheezing, may come and go but asthma is always there. There is a common misconception that asthma comes and goes, and that one should use the medication only when one has the symptoms.

It is important to know that asthma is a chronic (long duration) disease which has to be treated by the patient taking medicines continuously even in the absence of symptoms.

Since the underlying cause of asthma is a swelling in the airways of the lungs, if you stop taking medicines thinking that your symptoms are not present, you would be doing yourself a lot of harm, and when you get an attack, it would take you longer to recover.

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Symptoms of asthma

3. MY ASTHMA IS SEASONAL. WHY SHOULD I USE CONTINUOUS MEDICATION?

Some people are more prone to an attack during a particular season. If your asthma is seasonal, please consult your doctor for advice on your medication.

Find out more:

How to keep asthma under control

4. WHY SHOULD I TAKE INHALERS WHEN THERE ARE TABLETS AND SYRUPS AVAILABLE?

You should take inhalers even though there are tablets and syrups available. In most countries like the USA and UK, inhalation therapy has succeeded in replacing oral therapy as it is the most effective, the safest and also the most cost efficient way to control asthma.

Most patients in India still believe that taking a medicine orally, i.e. through the mouth, is the right way to treat any disease. However studies show that the best way to take asthma medication is by inhalation. Oral therapy, i.e. tablets and syrups which have to be swallowed, takes time to act as they have to pass from the stomach to the bloodstream and finally to the lungs. Whereas inhalation therapy is quicker because the drug is delivered directly to the place where it is required, i.e. the lungs.

If you have an eye infection, would you rather take tablets for it or put eye drops which go straight to the problem? If you have a cut on your hand, wouldn't you rather put some medicine on it directly, than take a tablet to cure it? In the same way, inhalation therapy is the short cut that reaches your lungs directly and takes care of the problem. Besides, in oral therapy, you need a larger dose in milligrams (up to 40 times more than in inhalation therapy) which means greater side effects. In inhalation therapy, the drug is in micrograms - and since very little medicine is allowed to reach any other part of the body, you have few side effects. Clinical studies and medical research by reputed scientific institutes and medical centres prove that inhalers are much safer than tablets and syrups.

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Why are inhalers better?

5. AREN'T INHALERS THE LAST RESORT FOR TREATING MY ASTHMA?

No, inhalers are not the last resort medicine for treating asthma. In fact it is the first and foremost medication to be taken in order to have better control on asthma, because it gives the desired effect in the right place i.e. in the lungs, where it is needed.

Besides, the dose in inhalers is very less compared to syrups and tablets. - up to 40 times less, thus the side effects are much less. It is advisable to take inhalers in the initial stages or else your asthma could worsen, cause irreparable lung damage and even expensive hospitalizations. Inhalation therapy is the most effective, user friendly, safe and convenient way to control your asthma and help you lead a normal, active, fulfilling life.

Find out more:

How people with asthma live a normal, active life.

6. IS THE SAME MEDICINE (I.E. IN INHALERS) AVAILABLE IN THE FORM OF TABLETS AND SYRUPS?

Most medicines are available in inhaled form. Some are also available in oral form such as tablets and syrups. But inhalation is the most effective way to treat asthma because the medication goes directly to the lungs, since the problem is in the lungs. As we explained earlier, if you have a problem with your eye, you would use eye drops, wouldn't you?

Also, compared to oral tablets and syrups, inhalation has fewer side effects since the dosage is up to 40 times lower compared to that of tablets and syrups.

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Why should I take inhalers when there are tablets and syrups available?

7. ARE INHALERS SAFE? WHAT ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS?

Yes, inhalers are safe. All medicines carry a risk of side effects in some people. But there are enough scientific studies to prove that the medicines in inhalers are safe, and have no serious side effects.

Most Controller treatments contain steroids and taking them by inhaler means that a much lower dose of the steroid can be used and because the inhaled medicine goes straight down to the airways where it is needed, very little is absorbed into the rest of the body. In oral therapy (tablets and syrups) you need a larger dose which is up to 40 times more than in inhalation therapy. The larger the dose, the more the side effects.

Your Controller will usually contain a corticosteroid, but it's safe. Corticosteroids are a copy of the steroids that are produced naturally in our bodies. Thus it is a very safe and effective treatment for asthma. Rest assured that these are not the same steroids that are misused by some athletes and body builders. However, not all inhalers contain steroid, some contain a quick relief drug.

Sometimes, there is a small risk of developing a sore throat or a husky voice. To avoid this, use your inhaler before brushing your teeth and rinse your mouth afterwards. Using a spacer device also helps reduce the chances of side effects.

Find out more:

Why are inhalers better

See how parents of asthmatic children are convinced that inhalation is safe compared to alternative medicine

8. ARE INHALERS COSTLIER THAN TABLETS/SYRUPS?

No, inhalation therapy is not more expensive than tablets and syrups. In India, inhalers are specially priced to be affordable and cost just a few rupees a day. Besides, the damage caused by tablets is really very expensive in the long run because of the side effects, not to mention hospitalization costs.

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Are inhalers safe?

9. CAN REGULAR USE OF INHALERS BE HABIT FORMING AND ADDICTIVE?

No, regular use of inhalers is not addictive. Just because you have to take your inhaler medicine daily does not mean that it is addictive. Do you consider brushing your teeth daily habit-forming? Or drinking milk? Or having your daily bath? Well, in the same way, using inhalers for your asthma is a good habit which will help you achieve good control over asthma. Thus it is a good habit to be addicted to.

However, if you feel that you are taking your Reliever medication a bit too often, it means that you are not taking your Controller medicine correctly. It is best you see your doctor and he will guide you correctly.

Find out more:

Why are inhalers better?

Types of asthma medicines in inhalers

10. HOW LONG DO I NEED TO TAKE MY ASTHMA MEDICINE?

Since asthma is a chronic (long duration) disease you have to take your medication regularly. As the underlying cause of asthma is inflammation (swelling), you have to continuously control it. If you stop taking the medicine, the inflammation will come back and your asthma will get worse. It is therefore necessary that you take the Controller medicines regularly as per your doctor's advice.

Find out more:

How to keep asthma under control

11. DO I STOP TAKING MEDICINES WHEN I FEEL GOOD AND DO NOT HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS?

No. Please do not stop taking your Controller medicines when you feel better. It is a mistake to think that once the symptoms have gone for some time (tightness in chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing), they won't recur. Asthma can occur anytime. It may lie low for a while but it never goes away. Also, please do not substitute your Controller medicine with your Reliever medicine or vice versa. You should only stop taking medication after consulting your doctor.

Find out more:

Types of medicines in inhalers

12. IS ASTHMA CURABLE?

Asthma cannot be cured. However if it is detected early and the right treatment is given, your asthma can be effectively controlled without having to compromise on your professional or personal dreams and ambitions.

There are so many successful people like film stars, sportspersons, professionals who have asthma but have not let it stop them from achieving what they set out to.

Find out more:

How to keep asthma under control

13. CAN I CATCH ASTHMA FROM SOMEONE ELSE?

No, asthma is not infectious. You cannot catch asthma from anyone else, and no one else at home or at work can get infected by it.

14. I HAVE HEARD THAT INHALATION HAS STEROIDS. SO HOW CAN IT BE SAFE?

Inhalation has steroids but it is safe for both adults and children. Asthma is a condition of inflammation (swelling) of the lungs. The best treatment for inflammation of the lungs is steroids, and the most effective way of taking it is through inhalation. When you take inhalation therapy, the steroid medicine goes directly through the lungs and has minimum side effects.

When steroids are taken in tablet form the dose is much higher (one steroid tablet gives up to 40 times the dosage of a puff from a standard steroid inhaler) and most of it is absorbed into the rest of the body, not just your lungs. Usage of steroid tablets regularly for long periods of time can have serious side effects such as brittle bones (osteoporosis), weight gain, bruising easily, diabetes, cataracts, heartburn and indigestion. It can also make you feel depressed, or have mood swings or a fattened face (moon face).

The steroid in your Controller will usually contain a corticosteroid, but it's safe, as proven by clinical trials worldwide. Corticosteroids are a copy of the steroids that are produced naturally in our bodies. Thus it is a safe and effective treatment for asthma for both adults and children. It is important that you understand that these are not the same steroids that are misused by some athletes and body builders.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may occasionally prescribe steroid tablets. If taken for a short period of time, it will not have damaging effects.

Find out more:

Why are inhalers better

Click here to see how parents of asthma children were convinced that inhalation is safe and does not harm

15. CAN I EXERCISE OR PLAY SPORTS EVEN IF I HAVE ASTHMA?

Sure, you can exercise regularly and play sports even if you have asthma. Exercise is good for everyone including those with asthma. But some people tend to get more breathless than others during or after exercising. If you've been diagnosed with asthma, you must take your Controller medicines regularly as prescribed by your doctor. Some asthmatics benefit by using a Reliever before exercising. So always keep your Reliever/Rescuer handy too. Also, do tell your team members and your coach about your Reliever medicine and what to do in case you have an attack.

There are so many sports legends who have not let asthma stop them. They include cricketers, basket ball players, swimmers and yes, runners too. In fact, many asthmatics have gone on to win medals in the Olympics. A tip: The best exercises for asthma are yoga, and sports like swimming and sprinting, since they do not involve continuous running and allow you to have breaks in between.

Find out more:

How to keep asthma under control

See how the Taekwondo Kid has not let asthma get in the way of his golden dream

16. I HAVE ASTHMA. CAN I SMOKE?

No you shouldn't smoke. The sooner you quit, the better for your asthma and for your overall health. It's important that you consult your doctor and use the medication prescribed for better control of your symptoms. When you give up smoking, you should also avoid passive smoking and request anyone who smokes not to do so in front ofyou or in your home. If you find it difficult to stop, do consult your doctor since there are many products available in the market to help you quit smoking.

Find out more:

What are asthma triggers?

17. WHAT DIET SHOULD I FOLLOW IF I HAVE ASTHMA?

You needn't follow any diet restrictions, but if you know that nuts or preservatives or aerated soft drinks are your triggers and could cause you to have asthma symptoms then please stay away from them.

Find out more:

What are asthma triggers?

See how Zahaan fought back and discovered Inhalation therapy

18. IS YOGA HELPFUL FOR ASTHMATICS?

Yoga has no direct correlation to your asthma. It is helpful for your general health and well being and in this way it is helpful for asthma patients. Yoga is essentially a spiritual science where you learn to do 'pranayama', which are breathing exercises and 'asanas', which are bodily positions in exercises. It is important that you do these exercises under an experienced yoga practitioner. But remember to discuss this with your doctor first. If you do yoga, please do not stop your inhaled medication.

Find out more:

Can I exercise or play sports, even if I have asthma?

19. WILL COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS HELP CONTROL MY ASTHMA?

Many people who have asthma also consider complementary/ alternative treatments like homoeopathy, ayurveda, herbal therapy, acupuncture and fish therapy, amongst others. However research shows that these treatments have not proven to be of any help in controlling asthma.

There is no data to prove the efficacy of these treatments. Besides, there is lack of information about their safety as they bear some risks to patients regarding side effects.

Please note that in an asthma attack, complementary medicines cannot help. They are not meant to replace your inhalation treatment. So don't ever abandon your main medication, even if you decide to try out one of these treatments. First discuss the complementary treatment with your doctor and take his advice before going ahead.

Find out more:

How Shivangi tried alternative medicines before inhalers helped control her asthma.

How parents finally discovered that inhalation was the only way to control their child's asthma safely

20. I HAVE ASTHMA. CAN I GET PREGNANT? WILL I BE ABLE TO BREASTFEED?

Yes. You can get pregnant and have a normal delivery even if you have asthma. You can also breast feed your baby even if you are an asthmatic. Since asthma is not a transmitted disease it does not transfer through breastfeeding. So this is not going to have any effect on your child. Besides, the inhaled medication is so safe it can safely be used when pregnant and while breastfeeding. In developed countries around the world, because of its safety, inhalation is recommended for pregnant women and breast feeding mothers.

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Watch mothers recommend inhalation therapy

21. CAN I LEAD A NORMAL LIFE IN SPITE OF MY ASTHMA?

Most definitely, you can lead an active and healthy life despite your asthma. If you follow your physician's advice, educate yourself about asthma, use your inhaled medication correctly, as prescribed by the doctor, and avoid your triggers, there is no reason why asthma should get in the way of your dreams, your life. There are many successful men and women - film stars, politicians, business people, doctors, cricketers, even Olympic gold medalists who have asthma and still continue leading normal, active lives.

Find out more:

Watch kids who lead a normal life inspired of their asthma

Discover how parents realized that inhalation was the only way to control their child's asthma safely

22. WHY DOES ASTHMA OFTEN WORSEN AT NIGHT?

Asthma symptoms (tightness in chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing) worsen at night because the level of the natural steroid in our body that is protective in nature is low at night. There are several other causes also like close proximity to dust mites present in pillows and bed linen at night.

Find out more:

What are the Emergency Warning signs to look out for?

23. CAN A CHEST X-RAY DIAGNOSE ASTHMA?

Asthma cannot be detected by taking a chest x-ray. You have to take a Peak Flow Meter Test or a Spirometry Test to find out if you have asthma. Most doctors however, prescribe a chest x-ray to rule out other problems in your chest, for example, foreign bodies in the lungs or other infections, which could affect breathing.

Find out more:

How to diagnose asthma

24. WHAT ARE THE EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR?

The following are the warning signs to look out for:

  • If you are breathing in a different way: faster, or slower, or more shallow than usual.
  • If you are coughing or wheezing and can't stop.
  • If you have bluish fingernails or lips.

Also ask your doctor what emergency signs to look for. It is important that you stay calm.

Find out more:

What to do during an asthma attack

25. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTACK?

If you have been avoiding your triggers and are regular with your Controller medicine, then the chances of having an asthma attack will be low. However, in case of an asthma attack, make sure that you:

  • Sit up upright - do not lie down. Try to stay calm and relaxed. Loosen clothing.
  • Without any delay, take the Reliever medicine in the dosage recommended by your doctor
  • Then wait for 5 minutes. If there is no improvement, take additional doses of the Reliever medicine as advised by your doctor.
  • If you still do not get relief, call your doctor immediately. Do not exceed the dose of the Reliever medicine without consulting your doctor.

Find out more:

What are the Emergency Warning Signs to look out for?

26. CAN ONE DIE OF ASTHMA?

Unfortunately, yes, one can die of asthma. According to a WHO update, the annual worldwide deaths from asthma have been estimated at 2,50,000. Death can occur if the asthma is not diagnosed in the first place. Or if the patient was not taking the Controller medication regularly. Or if the patient did not have a Reliever near at hand when having an attack. Most deaths from asthma are preventable. So please take the management of your asthma or your child's asthma seriously.

Find out more:

What are the Emergency Warning Signs to look out for?

What should I do if I am having an asthma attack?

27. I SUFFER FROM FREQUENT BOUTS OF COLD, CAUSING SNEEZING AND RUNNY NOSE, COULD THIS LEAD TO DEVELOPMENT OF ASTHMA IN THE FUTURE?

If you are suffering from frequent bouts of cold, it may not be a normal cold but may probably mean that you have a Allergic rhinitis. You may be allergic to various factors like dust, pollen, animal dander, strong smells, smoke, molds on damp walls etc., which causes symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

The symptoms are -

  • Runny nose (persistent watery discharge from the nose)
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Nasal itching (itching in the nose, eyes, or on the roof of the mouth)

These symptoms can occur either during a particular season of the year, however in some, it could be all the year round.

There is a strong association of asthma and allergic rhinitis, since the nose is an extension of the respiratory tract. Also the factors that trigger asthma and allergic rhinitis are the same. About 70% of people who have asthma have allergic rhinitis and around 10-40% of people with rhinitis have asthma. Usually the nose gets affected first and then the lower part of the respiratory tract i.e. the lungs.

So if you are suffering from frequent colds don't ignore your condition. Do consult your doctor to check whether it is allergic rhinitis and take proper treatment for it. Allergic rhinitis if untreated can lead to other complications like ear infections, sinusitis...

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