By Saira Baig
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 300 million people worldwide suffering from “Asthma”, with 250,000 premature annual deaths attributed to the disease. According to Pakistan Chest Society every 11th child in Pakistan is suffering from asthma. This is not just a warning sign for today; it is a predicament for our tomorrow too. The number of people with asthma is estimated to grow by approximately 400 million by 2025. According to the Asthma Society of Pakistan, up to 35% of the Pakistani population suffers from “Allergies”. That is not all, as 15% of this proportion of society, suffers from allergies that lead to asthma.
The first Tuesday of May every year is celebrated as World Asthma Day. This aims to bring to light the pressing concern that is asthma and to help raise awareness to the general public regarding nature, diagnosis and treatment options. This year, it is being celebrated on 3rd May, 2016 with the central theme being, “You Can Control Your Asthma“.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that is caused by chronic inflammation of the airways. It is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma attacks occur when the lung airways become swollen and tighten due to airway inflammation. Asthma attacks can be caused by “triggers” such as airway infections, allergy particles, chemical irritants, air pollution, cold air, extreme emotion arousal such as anger or fear, laughing, excitement and physical exercise. During an attack, people with asthma experience symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. At present, no cure is available for asthma. However, asthma attacks can be prevented by limiting one’s exposure to triggers and by properly using asthma medications.
Asthma that starts in childhood often disappear as child grows up but if it starts in adult life, it is less likely to disappear. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are having the family history of disease, exposure to indoor allergens such as house dust mites in bedding, carpets, curtains, stuffed furniture; pollution and exposure to cats and dogs in first two years of life, cockroaches and outdoor allergens such as pollens, moulds, tobacco smoke and chemical irritants in the workplace used in farming and hairdressing, in paint, steel, plastics and electronic manufacturing, car paint sprays, flour and grain dust and wood dust.
To reduce burden of the disease in Pakistan, a comprehensive strategy for its prevention is required. General public should be made aware that prevention from common cold can save them from asthma and prevention of nasal allergy means prevention of asthma.
The writer is perusing his M.Phil in the discipline of Environmental Sciences at the Karakorum International University, Gilgit.