World asthma day

25 April 2019

Tuesday 7 May bring us World Asthma Day, with the key focus to raise awareness of the symptoms as well as directing people to the correct help. We discussed frequently asked questions with Dr James Ramsay, Respiratory Consultant here at Spire Harpenden Hospital.

What is asthma?

If you have asthma your airways or bronchi, which are hollow tubes that help transport air in and out of the lung, become inflamed and very sensitive. This leads to narrowing of the airway and can sometimes result in the build up of mucus.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Common symptoms include cough, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. As the airways narrow, this makes it difficult for air to move into and out of the lung creating a high pitched whistling sound and breathlessness. 

Can you cure asthma?

Although asthma can’t be cured it can be well controlled with medication. This is usually administered in the form of inhalers but additional treatments may also be required.  The most common inhaled treatments include Salbutamol, which relaxes smooth muscles and opens narrow airways. This is a blue inhaler and is often called your “reliever inhaler”.   The other important inhaled treatment is corticosteroids. These reduce airway inflammation, treating the route cause. These are often brown inhalers and are used as “preventers”.  It is important to continue these treatments unless medically advised otherwise.

Are there any triggers for asthma?

If asthma isn’t well controlled with daily medication and/or a significant irritant, such as a respiratory viral infection affects a patient, then they can develop a “flare-up” of symptoms, which is otherwise known as an exacerbation or asthma “attack”.

This requires urgent medical review and can require additional medication. Other triggers that can make asthma generally worse are tobacco smoke, air pollution, allergies, exposure to cold dry air, exercise and heightened emotions. It is also possible to develop occupational asthma but this is less common and requires specialist assessment.

Patients can monitor the progress of their asthma using a peak flow meter as well as their symptoms.

If you think that you are experiencing the symptoms, which are described above, then I would recommend that you initially contact your GP for assessment. Alternatively please call our self-pay team on 01582 714 420 to book an appointment with Dr Ramsay.

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