Asthma, What is asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory disease that can occur in both children and adults. The condition is characterized by attacks of coughing, wheezing, tightness and extra mucus production in the lungs.
In the past, asthma coincided with two other lung diseases under the collective name CARA. Nowadays, these two other lung diseases are collectively referred to as COPD and asthma simply asthma.
Asthma attacks can be triggered by stimuli to which the body responds, for example allergic stimuli such as dust mites, cat hairs, or other stimuli such as smoke, moisture or exercise.
As a result, the mucous membrane covering the inside of the lungs will become inflamed, swell and produce more mucus. This inflammatory reaction is therefore not the result of an infection with bacteria or viruses, but a reaction of the mucous membrane to stimuli. The muscles around the mucosa can contract spastically. This leads to a narrowing of the airways and a difficult breathing, which gives a feeling of tightness.
In between attacks, there may be few or no complaints. Asthma is not always a permanent condition. Most people grow over it, especially if it started at a young age. In the other cases, the symptoms can be treated with medication.
You can also do a lot yourself to reduce the symptoms. Due to proper treatment, asthma is normally not dangerous and does not have much influence on your daily life.
It is not always easy to distinguish between cold and asthma. Both disorders lead to ‘fullness’, coughing and sometimes stuffiness. Yet asthma has a few characteristics that do not occur in a cold.
Attacking Asthma is characterized by attacks of cough and / or stuffiness and / or wheezing. In between attacks there are often no complaints.
Allergy An asthma attack often has an allergic cause. This means that the body has made antibodies against a certain substance or stimulus, and that exposure to that substance or stimulus can cause an asthma attack.
The most common allergic causes are:
- dust (for example dust mites in carpets)
- hair and dander (for example from cats)
- pollen and grass pollen (mainly in spring and summer)
Once you have asthma, attacks can also be triggered by all sorts of other incentives. We call that hyperreactivity. You respond much earlier and much stronger than another, such as:
- after a cold
- when exposed to cigarette smoke (self-smoking or passive smoking)
- cold air (for example, during shopping in the winter)
- smog or other smells (for example perfume)
- exercise (for example, exercising, making love)
Arrangement / heredity People with a first-degree family member (father, mother, daughter or son) have asthma have a higher risk of asthma. This predisposition to asthma is hereditary. However, not everyone with this disposition actually gets asthma.
There are probably several factors that play a role in the occurrence of the disorder. Much scientific research is being done into this. In certain cases or circumstances it may be more likely that someone has asthma.
The predisposition to asthma can already be seen at the baby age, but usually it starts between the second and tenth year of life. Babies with a certain form of eczema (constitutional eczema or dewworm) are more likely to develop asthma later.
Children under the age of four who repeatedly experience periods of coughing, wheezing and fullness have a fifty percent chance of developing asthma. These periods must then occur more than five times a year and last longer than ten days.
As these children get older, the periods may beep and shortness of breath may increase, but they may also disappear completely.
How does asthma arise?
The predisposition to asthma is hereditary. Yet not everyone with this aptitude gets asthma. There are probably more factors involved in the development of asthma than just heredity. Scientific research is still being done into these factors. We do know, however, that exposure to substances that cause allergy is unfavorable, as are infections caused by certain childhood viruses.
In someone with a predisposition to asthma, certain stimuli and substances can suddenly (sometimes after fifteen minutes but sometimes only after eight hours) lead to an asthma attack. The best-known examples are stimuli such as moisture, dust, pollen and pollen and smoke. The mucous membrane in the lungs will swell and produce more mucus. The muscles around the airways become irritated and contract. As a result, the airways become narrower and this leads to tightness and a squeaking noise when breathing.
Spiritual exertion, emotions and tensions affect all diseases, and therefore also asthma. However, they are not the cause of this disease. Someone who has asthma and is going through a difficult period (for example due to quarrels, divorce, exams or moving house) can often have an attack or experience more problems with the disease.
In such cases it makes sense to deal with the aggravating circumstances. You may also request the help of a close relative or friend, your family doctor or a social worker. The most important thing in these situations is always to use the right medicines.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
Asthma is a relatively harmless respiratory disorder. You have a predisposition for this disease and it cannot be changed. But you certainly do not always have to suffer.
By changing a number of things in your house and your habits, you can reduce the complaints you have. This is at least as important as any medication you receive from your doctor.
You can read about what you can do about asthma under the heading ‘What can you do about it yourself’.
What can you do about it yourself?
Remediation Remediation means that you remove all incentives and substances that can provoke an attack on you or your child from your home as much as possible.
Cats and other pet animals If the culprits are skin flakes or hair from a cat, it may be wise to find a new home for the cat.
House dust mites In most cases, however, they are unwanted pets: the house dust mites. These little creatures that cannot be seen with the naked eye, mainly live in dust.
No smoking After house dust mites, smoking is the main cause of asthma attacks. It is best for an adult with asthma to stop smoking for the sake of their own health. Also staying in smoky rooms can best be avoided.
For children with asthma it is very important that smoking is not allowed in the child’s environment. If you find it annoying to always have to say this to the visitor, then a ‘no smoking’ sticker on the front door can offer a solution.
Choosing good holiday destinations For someone with asthma it can literally be a relief to go on holiday to an area where there are few incentives and substances that can cause an asthma attack.
Mountains and sea are ideal holiday destinations in that regard. For children with a severe form of asthma there are also special spas in these areas.
Dose Exercise Exercise during an asthma attack can be difficult. Unfortunately, with an individual effort, an asthma attack can be triggered. Of course, effort cannot be avoided. But you can handle it in a good way.
Cycling to school or work can be fine, but if you or your child have a poor ability to withstand moisture, it is wiser to omit this in the event of fog. In this example, swimming in an ordinary swimming pool is better than in a subtropical swimming pool because the humidity in the latter is much higher.
In addition, a good warm-up can sometimes prevent the symptoms. By reasoning in this way you can prepare an excellent exercise program for you or your child.
Getting a flu shot Flu is also one of the incentives that can lead to worsening of asthma. The best way to prevent flu is the flu shot. If you have asthma, it is therefore wise to heed your doctor’s call for you to receive this injection.
Spiritual rest and relaxation Mental effort, emotions and tensions increase the susceptibility to diseases. Someone who has asthma and is going through a difficult period (for example due to disputes, divorce, exams or moving house) can therefore have more problems. In these cases it may be important to adjust the medication so that the symptoms decrease again.
Of course in this situation it is good to take steps that make you feel better. This can vary from taking time to relax by reading a good book or watching a good film, to resolve that fight with your colleague. Everyone can determine that for themselves.
General advice and precautions
Finding a balance You have just read a large number of options with which you can prevent asthma or limit its consequences. A good approach leads to a clear improvement and usually to the complete disappearance of the complaints. A ‘normal’ life is then possible in any case.
It is therefore very important to realize that possibilities are described and no obligations. You yourself feel the best that you can and cannot do. And as with many things in life, a balance must be found here between giving and taking. For example, if your child is unable to withstand moisture, but her girlfriend gives a party in a subtropical swimming pool, you can best compromise. By giving the child good medication in advance and properly informing the parents of the birthday girl, this is possible.
If you have doubts about what you can do best in a certain situation, you can of course always discuss this with your doctor or his assistant.