About Asthma

The National Asthma Campaign estimates that 3.4 million of the UK’s population currently have asthma, 1.5 million of whom are children. That translates as one in every seven children and one in every 25 adults. Asthma is very common among children of school age and it is estimated that between 30-50% of under-fives suffer from acute cough and wheeze.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a complex and puzzling condition that can start at any time of life. It’s a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. Children with asthma have airways that are almost always red and inflamed. These sensitive airways react badly when a child has a cold or other viral infection, or when they come into contact with an asthma trigger. A trigger is anything that irritates the airways and causes the symptoms of asthma to appear.


What are the symptoms?

The usual symptoms are coughing, wheezing or breathlessness, and a tight feeling in the chest. The muscle around the walls of the airways tightens so that the airway becomes narrower. The lining of the airway swells and produces a sticky mucus. As the airways narrow, it becomes difficult for the air to move in and out. That is why a child can find breathing difficult and you might hear a wheezing or whistling noise. Some children may experience these symptoms only occasionally whilst others experience them at night, first thing in the morning or after exercise. A few may experience these symptoms all the time.


What causes asthma?

It is difficult to say what causes asthma and we still do not know why it is on the increase. Although there are many theories asthma, like its related allergic conditions eczema and hay fever, often runs in families and may be inherited. There are a number of other environmental factors that may contribute to someone developing asthma – many aspects of modern lifestyles, such as housing and diet might be responsible. We also know that smoking during pregnancy increases the chance of a child developing asthma. Current research suggests that rather than there being one definitive cause of asthma we are more likely to find that it is a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.


How is asthma treated?

Whilst we may not know what causes asthma we do know how to treat it. Without doubt the most important part of controlling asthma is the carefully planned use of modern treatments. There are some excellent treatments available to help children take full control of their asthma. The two main kinds of asthma medicines are preventers and relievers, mostly delivered via inhaler devices. Preventers help protect the airways, calming down inflammation and thereby reducing the chance of getting asthma symptoms. These must be taken everyday even when well. Relievers help to quickly relieve breathing difficulties when they happen. Most preventers contain steroids and people are often anxious about the possible side effects however when used in small doses in steroid inhalers they can be a very effective and safe treatment. April 2000


Information Courtesy of
National Asthma Campaign
Email: The National Asthma Campaign

For Further information visit the website
www.asthma.org.uk

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