Asthma is a medical illness that affects the lungs. Many of the signs and symptoms of Asthma can be explained by the effects the disease has on the respiratory apparatus. They include, narrowing of respiratory channels due to spasm, and inflammation of lung tissue due to micro injuries. This pathology leads to obstruction of the normal flow of air in the lung. Faced with this situation, individuals who suffer from Asthma, fight for their breath. They experience persistent cough, chest tightness and labor for every breath they take. Anyone of these symptoms can occur alone. The hallmark of Asthma is its propensity to recur, sometimes with sudden onset. People with the severe type of asthma, have non stopping symptoms for days and weeks.
Making a new diagnosis of Asthma in children is challenging for the following reasons. Children can not adequately communicate to adults when they have difficulty breathing. Moreover, signs and symptoms suggestive of Asthma may disappear by the time the child see's a physician.
Proper and timely diagnosis may rest on an observant adult acting on a suspicion. An unusually quiet child with a history of Asthma might be having a life threatening attack. A child who goes into uncontrollable cough each time he or she plays, may be experiencing an attack of Asthma. Sometimes, the only clue parents give to the doctor is that their child's chest is moving very fast, or that their child is breathing very heavily.
Other characteristics of Asthma include:
- Cough from Asthma is worse at night
- Asthma tends to run in close members of the family
- Asthma and eczema tend to co-exist in the same patient
- Asthma in susceptible people is triggered by environmental factors such as dust, mold, pets, pollen, perfumes and so forth
- Asthma symptoms can occur in mild form, and only occasionally, or it may occur in severe and persistent form.
- Asthma sometimes gets better with age, and children may outgrow their symptoms
- In the so-called exercise induced Asthma 'EIA' shortness of breathe and other symptoms occur only during physical activities.
It is important to note that there are several medical conditions that could masquerade as Asthma. A health care provider sorts through all those differential diagnosis in other to arrive at a plausible conclusion.
When explaining Asthma to patients and their families, I tell them to regard Asthma as an illness that results from a sensitive lung, in the same way as eczema, a disease which occurs in people with sensitive skin. Sensitive lungs responds with wheezing and coughs when exposed to triggering factors. Similarly, a sensitive skin responds with itching and rash when exposed to irritants. Both conditions commonly coexist: many people who have Asthma also have Eczema, and vise versa.
The clinicians have gotten better in their use of medication to reduce Asthma symptoms. There are two main categories of drugs used in the treatment of Asthma. The bronchodilators are used to open constricted bronchioles while steroid medications are useful in reducing lung tissue inflammation. Both medications can be administered as inhalers, targeted directly into the lung tissue.
Parents have gotten better in their realization of the dangers associated with Asthma. They are beginning to seek earlier intervention. A high index of suspicion must be adopted in other to identify children with Asthma, especially where there is a strong family history of the illness.
Preventive measures is a big deal in Asthma. Part of it include avoiding recognizable offending triggers and using prescribed preventive medications.