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Cape Byron Medical Centre

ASTHMA INFORMATION – FACTS, TYPES & TRIGGERS

Everyone knows someone with asthma.

BUT WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT ASTHMA?

Nothing is scarier than not being able to breathe or watching a person having a severe asthma attack.
Understanding what asthma is and how it is managed is crucial to asthma sufferers survival and quality of life.

Here we will talk about the causes and types of asthma, triggers, treatments and how to deal with an asthma attack.

THE FACTS

1 in 9 Australians have asthma – around 2.5 million.

Asthma mortality rates are higher for people living in remote or lower socio-economic areas, and for Indigenous Australians.

Approximately 400 people die each year from asthma in Australia.

wHAT CAUSES ASTHMA?

Asthma is a long-term lung condition.  People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs which react to triggers, causing a ‘flare-up’. In a flare-up, the muscles around the airway squeeze tight, the airways swell and become narrow and there is more mucus. These things make it harder to breathe.

An asthma flare-up can come on slowly (over hours, days or even weeks) or very quickly (over minutes). A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack.

Anyone who experiences the following symptoms should check with their health professional as to whether or not they have asthma.

Breathlessness, wheezing, tightness in their chest, continuing cough.

WHAT TRIGGERS ASTHMA ATTACKS?

Asthma can be triggered by a number of different things such as; Pollen, pets, mould, and dust mites. Upper respiratory infections, tobacco smoke, cold or dry air, exercise or exertion and stress. Reducing your exposure to these triggers can significantly reduce the incidence of asthma attacks.

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ASTHMA?

Extrinsic or allergic asthma is most common and typically develops in early childhood. Approximately 70-80% of children with asthma have documented allergies.

Intrinsic or non-allergic asthma is more likely to develop in people over 30. Women who have had a respiratory tract infection are particularly at risk. Obesity also seems to be risk factor for this type of asthma. Symptoms are typically chronic, year round and more difficult to treat.

CAN YOU GET RID OF ASTHMA?

Asthma can’t be cured. But it can be managed so that you live a healthy active life. Armed with the knowledge and skills (plus medication) there is nothing you can’t do.

Preparation is key, plan your time and ensure you have your inhaler ready to go.

There are different medications such as preventers and relievers so make sure you understand what you are taking and why.

Be aware of potential triggers such as dust and smoke and avoid if possible. If you have forgotten your puffer/inhaler don’t risk exerting yourself.

WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE IS HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTACK?

Levels of an asthma attack can be described as the following; mild, severe and life threatening.

Asthma can worsen quickly over a very short period of time.

If someone is experiencing severe or life threatening symptoms, there is an asthma first aid procedure.

Sit the person upright, be calm and reassuring.

Administer puffer/reliever (4 separate puffs every 4 minutes) if they show no signs of improvement dial 000.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
HAVE AN ASTHMA PLAN;

Consult with your medical professional and formulate a series of actions to prevent and manage asthma and the severity of attacks. Children especially need to recognise the change in symptoms that indicate that the asthma is getting worse.