What is Asthma?
Asthma, also known as bronchial asthma, is a reversible condition in which the airways inflame and constrict which makes it difficult to breathe. Airway constriction causes shortness of breath and a wheezing sound. People with asthma may notice that sometimes they are breathing just fine like a normal healthy human being, but at times they will feel severe shortness of breath and panicky. This happens when their asthma gets triggered and the airways constrict and become smaller. Air pollution, allergens, infections, mold, pollen, etc. are the most common causes of inflammation in the airways of people with asthma. All these causes result in bad air quality. So we can say that bad air affects asthma.
According to PubMed’s Global Burden of Asthma report, around 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with the prevalence increasing by 50% per decade.
Let us read about this in detail.
– What is an Asthma Attack?
When asthma is triggered due to any of the above-mentioned causes, a person will feel shortness of breath, a higher heart rate, and sweating. As he cannot breathe properly, adequate oxygen will not reach his crucial body parts through blood like the lungs, brain, etc. This will make his condition more severe and he might have to visit a doctor. This sudden triggering of asthma and worsening of the condition of the patient is known as an asthma attack. Asthma symptoms become uncontrollable during an asthma attack.
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma is a serious breathing condition that may restrict you from doing day-to-day normal tasks. Some of the common symptoms that can be seen in patients with asthma are:
- Chest tightness or chest pain
- Extreme shortness of breath
- Wheezing while breathing
- Coughing or wheezing attacks
- Disturbed sleeping due to breathlessness
- Feeling of pressure on the chest
If you have asthma it does not mean that you’ll experience all of these symptoms. You can have only one or a few of these symptoms, and a combination of different symptoms during asthma attacks. Asthma has no cure but asthma can be controlled by eliminating the triggers like the air quality around you.
Who is more susceptible to Asthma?
Anyone, at any age, can develop asthma. People who are exposed to tobacco smoke, be it second-hand smoke or third-hand smoke, are more susceptible to asthma. The air quality of a particular area affects the residents of that area. Bad air quality affects asthma, may worsen conditions in people and can exacerbate other breathing problems.
Top Triggers of Asthma and how to avoid them
Anything that aggravates asthma is considered an asthma trigger. The muscles of the airways constrict or squeeze, and extra mucus is produced. As a result, it might narrow the airways and cause breathing difficulties. Asthma triggers fluctuate from person to person and can shift over time. To avoid asthma attacks and keep asthma under control, avoid and eliminate these causes. Asthma can be triggered by a variety of reasons. These are the following:
Air quality - This is one of the major asthma triggers. Asthma is a non-transferable disease that cannot be transferred to different people through the air like the common cold. But there are many triggers that the air carries, that may have adverse effects on asthmatic patients. Pollen, tobacco smoke, or strong chemicals and smell all are carried via air. Hence, the quality of air plays a crucial role in determining the conditions of an asthma patient. Bad air affects asthma.
1. Outdoor Air pollution-
The worsening of outside air can also cause the worsening of asthma. Bad air pollution can cause asthma attacks as well. The deterioration of air quality due to various causes such as factory emissions, open garbage burning, automobile emissions, wildfires, and many more is called air pollution. If you are someone suffering from asthma and there is high pollution outside;
- Avoid your outdoor time.
- Do not exercise outside.
- If you are stepping outside, make sure to carry your medicines and an anti-pollution mask with you.
2. Mold and mildew-
Mold can develop in places with high humidity. It can be found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can cause breathing issues if you have asthma. Mold can trigger your asthma even when you are not allergic to it. When outdoor mold levels are greater in the spring and fall, an allergy to outdoor mold frequently results in severe asthma episodes and a need for more medication.
Have a plan in place to manage your asthma during these times if you are allergic to outdoor molds.
Trees, grasses, and weeds are the sources of it. It blooms in the spring, summer, and fall. Asthma worsening may be linked to pollen exposure.
- During these times, taking your medications as directed can help keep your asthma under control and stop asthma attacks.
4. Indoor air pollution and irritants-
Irritators include smoke, pungent odors, and indoor air pollutants including PM2.5, CO, CO2, etc. These irritants may trigger an allergic reaction in the sensitive airways.
- Steer clear of smoking, aerosols, and strong odors.
- A room should have adequate ventilation if it is subject to these irritants.
5. Cold caused by viruses-
Virus-based colds are a frequent asthma trigger. The swelling inside the airways can get worse as a result of cold viruses. Winter and fall are the seasons when getting a cold are most likely to occur.
Wash your hands frequently to aid in preventing this.
6. Animal allergies and pet dander-
People with asthma often experience triggers from pets. The best suggestion is to avoid having a pet if you are allergic to them. If you have a pet and are allergic to it, keep the animal as far away from you as you can.
- Pets should not be allowed in bedrooms.
- Limit the pet’s frequent visits to the house.
7. Dust Mites-
Bed Sheets, rugs, and furniture wrapped with fabric, all can have dust mites.
- Once every week, wash the bedding and dry it in a hot dryer.
- If you have a dust mite allergy, cover the mattress with a dust mite protector.
8. Physical activity-
Working out or vigorous exercising may cause heavy breathing and asthma attacks.
- Consult your doctor on which exercises you can and cannot do.
- Warm-up and Cool-down before activity.
As discussed above, weather variations may contribute to the onset of asthma attacks.
- Staying away from and avoiding asthma triggers aids in asthma control and may result in less medication use.
How bad air quality affects Asthma?
Air quality both inside and outside can affect a person suffering from asthma. This can range from environmental exposure to tobacco exposure to things like car exhaust. Ozone commonly known as smog and particle pollution known as PM2.5 (particles with size 2.5 microns and less) and PM10 (a little bigger than PM2.5 but 5 times smaller than a human hair) are some of the more common triggers.
To avoid asthma triggers when you go outside, you can use the air quality forecasts known as the Air Quality Index or the AQI to predict what conditions are outside. You can monitor the indoor trigger pollutants as well and can use the monitored data to control and avoid these pollutants.
Air pollutants and bad air affects healthy individuals, but bad air quality due to air pollution can adversely affect people with respiratory illness and asthma. They can worsen asthma and can act as asthma triggers.
How does it affect children?
Children are more susceptible to having asthma, especially if they have a family history of asthma. It is the number one chronic disease in children in India and about 1 in 10 children have asthma. In India, with a 1.31 billion population, roughly 6% of children and 2% of adults have asthma, according to the Global Asthma Report 2018. Asthma affects children more severely than adults due to their smaller airways. Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and breathing difficulties are common among asthmatic children, particularly in the mornings and at night. The most common reason for child emergency room visits, hospital stays, and numerous missed school days is asthma.
Children having asthma can start having symptoms at an early age of 5. They have developing lungs which makes it necessary to identify any symptoms, prevention methods, and treat asthma with good care to prevent damage to the growing lungs.
How to know if you have asthma or not?
Numerous respiratory illnesses and diseases can cause wheezing and trouble breathing. As a result, you must seek medical attention to determine whether your symptoms are caused by asthma, an allergic reaction, or another problem.
Bad air quality equals frequent doctor visits
Bad air affects people with respiratory disorders and asthma more severely, as compared to healthy individuals. Therefore, they experience more serious health impacts. Difficulty in breathing and wheezing can be triggered due to bad air quality and can result in frequent ER and doctor visits.
When to get help?
You need to contact your doctor and get immediate medical attention and urgent care:
- When you experience severe breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, or wheezing, and they are not responding to your current medication.
- As your airways are constricted, breathing is difficult and if exposed to certain triggers, your condition can get worse.
- When you have stress or strain in your chest while breathing.
- When you have new or more frequent asthma symptoms.