Asthma is common lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways causing uncomfortable symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing, especially at night or early morning.
People with asthma have overly sensitive airways that react to certain triggers that do not affect other people.
What About Asthma In Fiji?
Asthma is a common condition around the world. According WHO, lung disease, including asthma, is the third biggest killer of the NCDs.
Fiji has the second highest mortality rate from Asthma in the world. In Fiji, the rates of asthma are rising, especially in the younger population (14-20), which is a big concern.
In the past four years (2010-2014) Fiji’s main hospitals have seen over 2285 cases and 6.6% of these cases have resulted in death. This would not be the case if these patients knew how to properly manage their Asthma.
Why is it so bad in Fiji?
In Fiji there are several challenges that prevent people from managing their asthma properly;
- Lack of knowledge on how to use their medication
- Interrupted access to medication (unavailable or financial situation)
- Lack of ongoing treatment
What Causes Asthma?
Risk factors or ‘triggers’ that can cause an asthma attack include; tobacco smoke, air pollution, inhaled allergen such as dust mites, pollen, animal fur from cats and dogs, strong emotional expressions, chemical irritants and drugs such as Aspirin and Beta Blockers.
Other triggers include weather changes ad cold and flu symptoms.
Is There A Cure For Asthma?
Asthma cannot be cured however it can be successfully controlled with proper treatment. Some children can grow out of asthma.
Maintaining good asthma control will enable you to live a normal, healthy life.
How Do I Treat My Asthma?
There are two types of asthma medication that most patients need:
1. Controller medications that are taken every day for a long period of time to prevent an asthma attack from occurring
2. Reliever medications: these should be carried with patients and used whenever they have an asthma attack. They are inhaled and provide rapid relief of symptoms.
Maintaining good asthma control will enable a person to participate in more school, work, household commitments and other social activities thus preventing frequent visits to the Emergency Departments or health facilities.
Your doctor or nurse will figure out which treatment is best for you and show you how to take your medication. It is good to see the same doctor about your Asthma as they are aware of your history and needs.
Can I Control My Asthma?
Medicine from inhalers (puffers) is the main treatment â€“ but there are other ways to help keep yourself well. Here are some simple steps;
YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR ASTHMA
People with asthma can control it, however, they must have access to effective medication, have a good knowledge of their condition and how to use their medications and avoid triggers that could make their condition worse.
They must also be prepared and know what to do if their asthma attack gets worse. Remember these 4 steps to proper asthma control;
RECOGNISE and avoid your trigger factors
TAKE asthma medicines that way your doctor says to take them
Get a CHECK up with your doctor 2 â€“ 3 times a year, even if you havenâ€™t had an attack
KNOW when you are having an attack, understand the symptoms and learn to seek help early.
The severity of an asthma attack varies in individuals. Symptoms can last from hours to days or weeks and months before medical advice is sought.
Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate or severe.
Mild – person can speak normally but may have a slight wheeze or mild cough, especially when excited or running.
Moderate – person may speak in half sentences; their breathing will be difficult and you may hear them wheezing; and they may have a persistent cough.
Severe – the person may speak in single words; they could struggle to breathe; you may be able to see in-drawing (sucking in) of the muscles between their ribs but they may sound quiet (because of reduced air movement, there may be no wheeze). Their chest may feel tight and theyâ€™ll probably look pale.
The right treatment for asthma attacks comes down to good planning and being prepared. Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your asthma.
See http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/asthma for more information on asthma attacks.
Asthma In Children
A child who has parents or other close relatives with allergies or asthma, is more likely to develop asthma. You should be able to recognize the signs of asthma in your child and know how to manage it.
Did you know that asthma is twice as common in boys than it is in girls.
Look out for the common asthma symptoms in your children;
- Persistent coughing, especially at night or after exercise
- Wheezing (noisy breathing)
- A tight feeling in their chest.
- They may complain of discomfort
If other members of your family have asthma, you should be extra careful to watch for warning signs in your child.
The good news is, many children grow out of asthma by the time they reach adulthood.
If you avoid the cause/triggers of asthma, you can usually avoid asthma attacks. The more you know about asthma and management, the more your child can stay fit, healthy and happy.
Managing your child’s asthma
You should take your child to your doctor and discuss a plan for managing their asthma. They can help you;
- Know the right medication to use
- Help your child understand how to use their medication
- Know what to do in an emergency/severe asthma attack
- Help make your home free of things that may trigger your childâ€™s asthma
TIP: you should always keep a record of your concerns and your childâ€™s symptoms so you can discuss with your doctor, as this can help in the treatment.
- You should let the teachers and heads of school know your childâ€™s situation
- Ensure your child always has medication on hand
- Ensure your child knows how to manage an asthma attack
- Make sure you can be contacted if needed.
Seek Medical Attention ifâ€¦
You should see your doctor or go to hospital immediately if your child is showing any of the following signs;
- Severe trouble breathing (rapid short breath, sucking in their rib muscles or grunting when exhaling)
- Blue lips of fingertips, darkened skin
- Chest, neck or throat pain
- Fever or constant coughing and wheezing
- Vomiting that wonâ€™t allow them to take oral medication
If your child with asthma is uneasy, drowsy or confused
Asthma And Exercise
It is important to know that exercise is good for children with asthma as long as you know how to manage their asthma well. You should speak to your health professional about the best way to manage this.
Here are some general tips;
- Give your child their medication/reliever before beginning exercise if exercise usually triggers their asthma
- If they already have asthma symptoms, they should avoid the activity until their symptoms improve
- Warming up before exercising is important
- If they show any signs of asthma during the activity, they should stop immediately and treat the symptoms
Here are some sports that are good for asthma sufferers;
- Swimming â€“ this is one of the best sports for asthma
- Yoga and martial arts
- Team sports â€“ especially those with lots of stopping and starting, a break in action is good.
No sports are off limits just because you have asthma, however, there are some sports that are more likely to trigger asthma;
- Endurance sports like rugby, soccer and long distance running
- Cold weather sports (no skiing trips to NZ!)
There are two asthma clinics in Fiji
One for Adults
CWM Hospital â€“ Physiotherapy Department
One for Children
CWM Hospital â€“Childrenâ€™s Ward â€“ Physiotherapy Department