Important Asthma Facts – 2.4 million asthma patients in Korea

The Korea Times is reporting that people with asthma are quite vulnerable to cold weather, allergies and dust. In low temperatures and dusty environments asthma suffers cough more often and breathing problems.

According to the definition provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound made when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

As of the latest report in 2007, there are more than 2.4 million asthma patients in Korea.

If you have been kept awake during the night because of excessive coughing or shortness of breath; or have always felt short of breath after exercise; suffered from colds or flu for more than three weeks; have had breathing problems after taking cough drops or hypertension pills or have eczema, you should consult your doctor because you might have asthma.

Dr. Shin Jong-wook of Chung-Ang University Hospital says people with incorrect information about the disease may make symptoms worse. He mentioned several misconceptions people have about asthma.

1. Jogging and hiking are good for asthma: Wrong

Asthma patients with breathing difficulties are mistaken when they believe that running, cycling or hiking will help their lung capacity.

Actually, early morning exercise could worsen their symptoms. The cold air gets into the lungs and stimulates the respiratory organs.

It is much better to take a walk or stretch. Avoid going to “dry” areas.

Swimming is recommended. Immersed in water and moisture, this exercise is much safer. Although right after swimming your body temperature falls, so take precautions as not to worsen your symptoms.

2. Smoking is bad but drinking is okay: Wrong

Nowadays everyone knows that drinking is not good for your health. However, many asthmatics underestimate the high risks of drinking alcohol, which contains sulfites that causes bronchial tubes to shrink.

Sulfites can also be found in dried fruits, juice, beer, potatoes and shrimp.

3. Only children suffer from asthma: wrong

It is true that asthma is more commonly detected among children and teenagers. But according to a report by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the prevalence rate among people over 50 years old is now higher than average: the overall prevalence rate is 3 percent. It seems that the disease first appears in childhood then gets better but relapses in adulthood.

Therefore, those who had asthma in the past should always check their condition. Elderly people should take extra care because asthma could lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

4. Refrain from using drugs with steroids: wrong

Doctors prescribe drugs that contain steroids to expand the shrunken bronchial tubes and fix possible inflammation. However, steroids are known for their negative side effects such as hypertension, weight gain, osteoporosis and stomach ulcers among others, which deter many patients from taking them.

However, commonly prescribed steroids in artificial inhalers are only used for the bronchial tubes and one does not have to worry too much about the side effects.

5. Asthma is a serious condition: correct

The general public may disregard the seriousness of asthma but it is in fact a deadly disease. Experts grade it into four stages and the fourth level can cause death. Those who are diagnosed with asthma shouldn’t be overly concerned, but at the same time should remain alert to their sensitive condition.

The Many Signs of Asthma

Around the globe, asthma is the cause of approximately 175,000 deaths per year, 4,000 of which are in the US alone. Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, which causes airway constriction and results in shortness of breath or breathing restrictions. A trigger normally causes asthma attacks, which are an acute exacerbation of asthma disorders. A trigger is a specific stimulus that the person is exposed to that causes an increased responsiveness in the airways producing bronchospasms, and airway obstruction. This trigger varies from person to person and includes but is not limited to allergens, exercise, cold air, emotional stress, etc. When a person is having an asthma attack their symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Although we characterize asthma to be a disorder, in actuality it is our bodies own defense mechanism by shutting down and protecting our vital organs. The upper airway recognizes perceived danger such as allergens, toxins, and pollutants in the air and shuts down the airway to the more vulnerable lungs. However, without the proper treatment during asthma attacks our bodies can remain in this state ultimately causing death. Therefore it is important to recognize the symptoms and to react quickly.

Asthma can be caused by environmental or genetic factors. Several environmental factors have been associated with the development of asthma and increased risk of childhood morbidity. Some of these environmental factors are tobacco smoke, both in womb and out of the womb, low air quality, viral respiratory infections, caesarian sections, psychological stress, antibiotic use in early ages, and use of paracetamol. Some factors have only been associated with asthma and have not been researched thoroughly enough to be proven as a definite cause.

On the genetics side, over 25 genes have been associated with asthma over several sample studies. Although many of the genes are related to the immune system, there has not been enough consistency in the studies on asthma to definitively say that these genes in their specific make up cause asthma. However, the results do show that these genes cause asthma just not under every condition. Therefore further testing needs to be done to discover the interactions of these genes that do cause asthma.

The best way to treat asthma is to avoid factors that may trigger an attack. However easy it is to say that, this does not mean that an acute asthma attack will never happen, therefore attacks should be treated with medicines such as an inhaler. Inhalers contain salbutamol a short-acting selective beta2 adrenoceptor agonist. By quickly inhaling the medication the drug can target the lungs which will spread the medication throughout the body. Long term medications can be used as a preventative measure which include inhaling glucocorticoids. Preventative medication has shown improved symptom control and less acute attacks over a period of 12 hours.

Asthma can be anywhere from mild to life threatening, but can be controlled with a combination of drugs, inhalers and changes in lifestyle. Be proactive about your condition. Monitoring and managing the symptoms of asthma can prevent and decrease future attacks, and can allow for healthier, happier life.