Understanding Asthma

What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition that causes coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, a tightness in the chest and a build up of sticky mucous in the airways. The severity of asthma symptoms varies. Another symptom of asthma is night time coughing with some sufferers also experiencing hoarseness.

Who is more likely to suffer from asthma?
Asthma usually starts in childhood. Children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma. The exact cause of asthma is not known although there is a strong genetic link. If your parents have asthma then you may be more likely to suffer. Many people who suffer from asthma also suffer from hay fever and asthma symptoms can get worse during the hay fever period.
Ireland has the fourth highest incidence of asthma in the world. There are around 470,000 people who suffer from asthma in Ireland and there are two asthma related deaths in Ireland every week.
Over 90% of asthma deaths are preventable

What can trigger asthma?
There are a number of factor that can trigger asthma and these include:
– Smoking and tobacco smoke
– Dust
– Pollens
– Animal hairs
– Chest infections
– Some drugs such as anti- inflammatories and beta blockers. Check with your local Haven Pharmacy
– Moulds and fungal allergens
– Food allergies

How can you help your asthma?
– Stop smoking
– Avoid being exposed to passive smoking
– Reduce weight if you are overweight
– Avoid asthma triggers
– Improve your overall fitness although it’s important to consult your local Haven Pharmacist or GP as exercise can sometimes be a trigger
– Make sure there are no damp areas in your house.
– Avoid certain medications, consult your local Haven pharmacist
– Make sure you are using your inhalers properly

What is the correct inhaler technique?
Around half the difficulties associated with asthma are caused by poor compliance with medication use and by poor inhaler use so you need to make sure you have the correct inhaler technique. This includes:
– Make sure you know the difference between the two types of inhalers: preventers and relievers
– Always rinse your mouth with water after you have used your inhaler as this helps prevent fungal infections
– When using an inhaler, do not obstruct the inhalation with your tongue or teeth
– Do not breathe out through the inhaler, this is a common error particularly for younger asthma sufferers
– Do not take your inhaler apart
– If you are using easi-breathe inhaler devices make sure you close them after each inhalation – and before you take a second inhalation
– Make sure the inhaler is not empty
– Improve your breathing exercises. Try the Buteyko breathing exercises

When should you see your doctor about asthma?
Some asthma symptoms are also common in other chest conditions so it’s important you see your doctor first for an accurate diagnosis if you suspect you have asthma or you have any of the symptoms of asthma. Your doctor may prescribe inhalers and/or other medication such as steroids. Make sure you consult your doctor if you find yourself using the reliever inhaler frequently. You may need to have your medication reviewed or it may be just a simple matter of checking your inhaler technique.

Find out more about asthma and improve your inhaler technique by talking to your local Haven Pharmacist.