Australia has one of the higest rates of asthma in the world. Understanding this health concern is critical and could save your life or the life of someone you love.
Over 11% of Australians have asthma. That’s 1 in 9 people – which might be you, or someone close to you. Asthma is a long-term disease of the lungs, sometimes referred to as chronic respiratory disease. Sufferers know well the feeling that asthma causes when your airways become inflamed and ‘narrow’, making breathing difficult. Although many people first develop asthma during childhood, asthma symptoms can occur at any age and because of a variety of reasons. Adults with newly diagnosed asthma (adult onset asthma) generally encounter persistent symptoms. Flare-ups can occur because of an infection (possibly following a cold or flu), exercise, allergens and air pollution. First signs of asthma will probably include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and trouble breathing.
The most recent statistics indicate that women are more likely to develop asthma after age 20. However, it’s important to note that anyone – at any age – can develop asthma, so if you have concerns, consult a medical professional. It’s thought that obesity may contribute to a person’s risk of developing asthma, and that people who had asthma as a child are also likely to see asthma recur in adulthood. Research indicates that at least 30% of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies. These can include seasonal allergies, reactions to animals (e.g. cats), and exposure to irritants in the home or work environment like chemicals, dust or mould. Hormonal fluctuations in women may play a role in adult onset asthma. Some women first develop asthma symptoms during or after a pregnancy, and others do so when going through menopause. A bad cold or flu often triggers adult onset asthma too, or symptoms occur after a person battles an illness, virus, or infection.
Regardless of the trigger(s), common symptoms occur that might indicate adult onset asthma. These are:
• A persistent dry cough, especially at night or in response to specific triggers.
• Tightness or pressure in the chest, and difficulty breathing.
• Wheezing when exhaling (a whistling sound when you breathe).
• Shortness of breath after exercise or physical exertion.
• Colds that go into the chest (and seem particularly bad or worse than everyone else you know); or colds that persist for more than 10 days.
• Any of the above symptoms that keep coming back or happen at the same time each year.
You should talk to a doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible, if you have symptoms that are bothering you, or if you suspect you might have asthma. Asthma contributes to loss of lung function, and if left untreated can worsen over time. If you have any asthma symptoms, don’t ignore them. Asthma Australia shares that asthma claims over 400 Australian lives every year of which 300 are women and 150 are men. There are nearly 40,000 hospitalisations and the highest at risk patients are women aged between 55-64. It’s a condition that you should not take lightly. Consult a healthcare provider who can help to determine why you’ve developed asthma and the best approach for managing your triggers and symptoms in the future.
Practical steps that are likely to be discussed with you include:
• Developing a written asthma care and action management plan.
• Your commitment to regular check-ups and administering appropriate medication.
• Wheezing when exhaling (a whistling sound when you breathe). Education on the type of asthma you're dealing with, how to avoid your know triggers and udnerstanding the medication that you should have on hand to manage flare-ups.
It’s important to get diagnosed properly and as early as possible. Most people who develop adult onset asthma can lead normal lives because with proper care and management, asthma symptoms can be effectively controlled.
If you have any queries or concerns, you can always start by talking to your local pharmacist for advice or have a read of Asthma Australia’s website at https://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/.
*as seen on Get It Magazine, Page 36, September 2019 Edition.
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