Asthma is a serious global health problem affecting people of all ages throughout the world. Uncontrolled asthma can act as a limiting factor in the lives of individuals adversely affecting their economic development and family life to cause fatalities as well. Asthma in childhood can hamper/ restrict/ slow down physical, emotional and psychological development. It is a burden in terms of healthcare costs as well as it lowers the productivity.
Alarming facts about Asthma In India, an estimated 57000 deaths were attributed to asthma in the year 2004. According to National Family and Health Survey-3, (2005-06) asthma is much more common than tuberculosis, diabetes, or goiter /other thyroid disorders. About 70% of asthmatics also have allergies. Workplace conditions, such as exposure to fumes, gasses or dust, are responsible for 11% of asthma cases worldwide.
The prime contributing factors for asthma in all ages are active and passive smoking, pollution, dust allergy, sudden changes in atmosphere and extreme weather conditions. The prevalence and complications of asthma can be scaled down if timely preventive and treatment measures are taken.
Smoking (both active and passive) which is a significant contributing factor for asthma should be avoided. Passive smoking can only be controlled when active smoking will be shunned. Media has a vital role to play in spreading awareness about detrimental effects of smoking not only in urban regions but also in rural areas where the incidence of asthma is higher.
Rural people are frequent smokers. Hookah smoking is rampant among rural gatherings. Bidi smoking is also prevalent among rural women especially lower class who do not consider female smoking as a taboo. Unlike the educated and literate urban population, rural people remain ignorant about the detrimental effects of smoking. Asthma awareness camps and programs should be tailored to reach and enlighten the rural population as well.
Pollution is an inevitable component of urban living. Air pollution from cars, factories, power plants and construction sites can induce asthmatic attacks. Although, pollution cannot be eliminated completely from our surroundings but it can be controlled by tree plantations and conserve the environment. A novel green revolution to reduce the impact of pollution is entailed by our country. Moreover, the government should come up with stringent laws and regulations to regulate and monitor various types of pollution in residential areas.
One of the global problems of the era is the trend of junk foods. Binging on junk foods can lead to obesity which can elevate complications in asthma patients. Junk foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate) can cause allergy in some people which can lead to asthma. It is need of the hour to switch to traditional healthy Indian diets and follow an active lifestyle. Regular exercises, especially lung exercises in the morning are very helpful in controlling asthma.
Apart from preventive measures, treating asthma to control complications is a vital element of medical management. Inhalers are the best and safest possible measures for controlling asthmatic attacks. Through inhalers, medicine goes directly to lungs and it reaches the bronchial tree resulting in minimal systemic effects in contrast to oral drugs which enter the systemic circulation first and therefore a higher amount of drug needs to be consumed which might have systemic effects as well.
Complete cure of asthma is difficult therefore continual or long-term use of medicines is mandatory for asthma patients. But long-term use of medicines can be taxing for patients as well as for their family.
New studies and researches with respect to mechanism of treatment need to be conducted. Extensive research work to develop drugs which are cheaper, effectual for all ages, less cumbersome, with no side effects and better control and prevention against asthmatic attacks should be taken up by medical fraternity.
In India, asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, creating a burden on individuals and their family. The importance given to bronchial asthma is lesser than that given to diseases like AIDS and diabetes. Media and NGO interventions along with novel govt. policies and programs in the direction of treatment and preventive measures to combat the thrust of asthma are urgently anticipated.