Speak to the Doctor[/button] Rains are greeting all of India and the Garden City of India, Bengaluru is not spared either. Bengaluru has witnessed rapid growth and industrialization in the past two decades. From being a disease studied in books and seldom heard among the population, asthma has become increasingly prevalent in an alarming proportion.

Locally, the incidence of asthma has increased 3-4 times in the last 20 years and about 5-10% of children suffer from it. Among these patients, about 25-30% may have allergies.

ALLERGY AND ASTHMA

To deal with the disease, one needs to know about the disease. As asthma and allergy are inter-related, it is important to know about them.

An allergy is an overdrive of the immune system to otherwise harmless substances present in our environment, called the “allergens”. An allergic reaction could be in the form of an asthma attack, allergic rhinitis, skin eruptions or gastrointestinal involvement.

Asthma is a disease affecting the airways which are oversensitive and react to variety of allergens, viral infections, pollution or changes in the temperature. This leads to constriction of airways leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and tightness of chest.

CAUSES

While it is difficult to find the exact cause of asthma, it is believed that it happens by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. The hard part is that asthma cannot be cured, but can be controlled.
We are all surrounded by allergens. Pollen from weeds and trees cause asthma attacks all round the year. Fungal spores/molds can also cause allergies. Next commonest cause is the animal dander’s which stay in the air surrounding us. Cockroaches, though impossible to get rid of, can be a possible triggering factor. House dust mites can be a major cause of perennial symptoms of asthma.

Some asthma reactions can occur due to inhalation of certain chemical agents like cigarette smoke or paint vapors. It also worsens at times due to stress or chest infection. A common myth is that asthma is not fatal, which is not true. According to WHO, about 25,000 of all people suffering from asthma, succumb to this condition each year. This makes it even more important to identify and treat the condition accordingly.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO IDENTIFY WHAT ALLERGIES DO WE HAVE?

Along with pharmacological management, avoidance of possible allergic triggers can be beneficial. These allergic triggers can be identified by skin prick tests or blood tests. Though complete avoidance of the possible allergens may not be possible practically, specific measures can be of help in reducing clinical symptoms.

Here are some lifestyle modifications which will help keep your asthma in check:

Use asthma medications regularly: Follow the advice of your doctor and do not stop the medications on your own.
Regular Exercise: Take at least 30-45 minutes out of your busy schedule every day to do an exercise which suits you.

Eating healthy food: Have a balanced diet which is free from processed and packaged foods. Also be aware of possible food allergies.

Stay away from possible triggers: Wear masks in polluted areas. Discuss with your doctor about advice on avoiding exposures to allergens identified.

Stop smoking: If you/your family member is an asthmatic, smoking will worsen the condition and cause acute attacks.
Air purifiers: Using air purifiers can be helpful in indoor air pollution, which can also trigger asthma attacks.