What is asthma? Symptoms, Triggers and Prevention


Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm. It is mostly caused by combination of genetic and environmental modulators which influence its severity and response to treatment.
Asthma is one of the diseases of public health concern. It causes chronic but reversible obstruction and inflammation of the lungs. It results to sudden mortality and morbidity among different ages, races and genders if not detected early and treated. The numbers of people who are victims of this dreadful disease are increasing at alarming rate.


Asthma a complex, preventable and treatable disease associated with interaction between many respiratory cells and inflammatory mediators. It causes chronic inflammation of the airways. This subsequently results in increased contractibility and obstructive disorders around the smooth muscles of bronchi in the lungs. There is severe reversible and variable airflow limitation that can resolve spontaneously or with treatment. If untreated, the chronic inflammation can cause the lungs to become irreversibly obstructed due to airway remodeling. Some individuals will have stable asthma for weeks or months and suddenly develop an episode of acute case.


Symptoms and signs of asthma manifest more or are usually worse at night and in the early morning.  It responds to exercise or cold air/weather. Some asthmatics rarely experience symptoms and signs in response to triggers. Others may have marked and persistent symptoms and signs. They include hacking night cough (more mucus is produced in the airways and undermining the flow of air). There is shortness of breath after exercise (many asthmatics hardly catch their breath or they feel out of breath or cannot get air out of their lungs).  Another is chronic throat-cleaning type of cough (often occurs at night, making it difficult to sleep or early in the morning). Observed is, chest tightness (feeling that something is squeezing or sitting on your chest). There is a recurrent episode of wheezing (a hissing or whistling sound when breathing). Sputum (often hard to bring up) produced from the lungs by intermittent coughing is reported.


Allergens and irritants such as pollens from trees, grasses and flowers should be avoided.  House dust from rugs and home décor products and body and hair sprays should be prevented. Animal dander (especially cat and dog hair), mold and cockroaches should be avoided. Industrial and home irritants such as strong odours, chemicals, fumes from generators and cars should be avoided. Smoke from burning and bleaching of palm oil should be avoided.

People should avoid foods and drinks that contain sulfides. Occupational exposures to chemical irritants in flour, wood and textile dusts should not be allowed.  Avoid viral respiratory tract infections and perfumes which can cause acute attacks in women and children. Avoid emotions like anxiety, stress and hard laughter or crying. They can alter the immune system and increase the airway inflammatory response to allergens and irritants.

Avoid low air quality from traffic pollution and Phthalates in Polyvinylchloride. These are associated with asthma in children and adults. Environmental exposures to weather changes, cold air and sulfur dioxide should not be allowed.  Avoid cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke (passive smoke). They reduce the effectiveness of medications such as corticosteroids. Drugs like aspirin, bethanecol, tartrazine, propranolol, antibiotics and some preservatives should not be used without expert medical advice.


Eczema, hay fever and strenuous physical activity including exercise that is not carefully planned should be avoided. Obesity (overweight) that can build-up fat in the adipose tissue, leading to pro-inflammatory asthma state should be avoided.


There are workers associated with the highest risk of asthma attacks and deaths. They include paints sprayers, bakers and food processors, nurses, workers in chemical industries and chemical users.  Those exposed to animals, welders, hairdressers and timber workers are at risk. Many deaths and economic burdens attributable to asthma are due to inadequate equipment. Other factor is poor assessment of the severity of airflow obstruction by health care providers and patients.


Asthma has increased significantly since the 1970s. As at 2019, an estimated 245–400 million people were affected globally.  Approximately 400,000 people die annually from the disease. Severe asthma occurs more in adult women than men and it is more common in the young than the old. Asthma starts early in life with worst episodes at night and early morning. The good news is that it can be outgrown.


The treatment goals of asthma presently are aimed at relieving and reducing imparts of symptoms immediately. Other goals are to prevent risk of future adverse health events like exacerbation, crisis and death. While there is no cure for asthma that is not out-grown, symptoms can typically be managed. When you feel fine after medication, you still have the disease which can flare up at any time.

A specific, customized plan for proactive management and monitoring of asthma symptoms should be in place. This plan should include the reduction of exposure to irritants and allergens. It should include, testing to assess the severity of symptoms and the usage of prescribed medications. The treatment plan and advice adjustments should be written down in response to changes in symptoms. The most effective aspect in treatment of asthma is identifying the common asthmatic symptoms and triggers.  Prompt reporting for individualized medical evaluation that achieves the needed improvement in the control and prevention of attacks is necessary.


Asthmatics should take active role in managing the disease by building strong partnerships with expert health care providers. This will promote successful, thorough and ongoing treatment, control and monitoring. People should pay adequate attention to cleanliness and family size. Perform spirometry every one or two years to follow-up asthma control. Daily self-monitoring of moderate to severe asthma attacks should be used to check effectiveness of new medications. This will also guide treatment in those with acute exacerbation.

Removal from the house, pets that cause asthmatic allergy is crucial in reducing asthma incidences. Engage in carefully planned exercise that will not affect the control of asthma while exercising. Asthmatics should use the recommended medications appropriately. People should ask care providers what triggers asthma symptoms and signs, and how to timely avoid them. Keep track of your asthma symptoms and level of control. Asthmatics should get regular checkups, follow their asthma control plans and know when to seek emergency medical care.

Next articleImportance of breastfeeding

Leave a Reply