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Asthma

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Asthma is a condition that provokes difficulties in breathing. A severe inflammation of the airways leads to the swelling and consequently constriction causing it difficult to breathe. On most occasions, a person with asthma coughs, experiences a tight feeling in the chest and wheezes during the early or the late hours of the day. Statistics show that almost 20 million Americans suffer from the condition and almost a third of them are children (Simon, 2011). Anyone is susceptible to the disease irrespective of age, gender, or race.

Overview

Air moves in and out of lungs through airways. An individual with asthma has swollen and highly sensitive airways because of inflammation. Whenever such individuals inhale certain chemicals or substances, the muscles of the airways become tight. This results into narrowing of the airways and the cells of the airways also produce mucus, which leads to difficulties in breathing. A person coughs to clear the mucus so that air can pass through the airways to the lungs.  

Kinds of Asthma

There are two kinds of asthma. The first one is pediatric asthma and the second one is occupational asthma. Pediatric asthma is very prevalent among children while other is caused by the presence of substances that trigger the condition at the work place.

Causes of Pediatric asthma

A survey carried out in the Republic of Ireland from 1980-2000 shows that, for every five school going children, one suffers from asthma (Muiris, 2011). At any point, asthma is the cause of the child hospitalization and the rates are still on the rise. In his book; Childhood Asthma-Your Questions Answered, Dr Peter Greally illustrates the real causes of asthma in children (19-100).

Genetic Causes

Familial traits in relation to asthma could be a potential cause of asthma. Imprinting, a genetic characteristic, shows that if the mother of the child has the disease, then there is a high probability of the child having it. However, the genetic cause is put into dispute in the case of identical twins studies. The level of Immunoglobulin E, an allergy marker, indicates a marked difference on the rate of development of asthma in identical twins (Greally 37). This evidence hypothesizes that the environmental conditions are responsible for the development of asthma.

Family Hygiene

The logic behind human hygiene can explain the cause of asthma. A household that is cramped with a lot of furniture, carpets, family members, and pets is a predisposing environment to the cause of asthma. Families with a single child have a smaller risk of developing asthma when compared with families who have more than two children. An apartment that is stuffed to the full harbors more allergens than one, which is well lit and less packed. A cramped apartment has allergens like mold, animal hair, insects, dust, and pollen among other things.

Environmental Factors

Inhalation of irritants into the lungs can cause a direct asthma attack. Cigarette smoking causes children to have highly sensitive airways. Expectant women who smoke give birth to infants having a very low weight at birth and defects in their lungs. This is a predisposing factor to asthma development either in childhood or adulthood. Allergies to food and indoor cleaning chemicals can also cause asthma in children and adults. In addition, air polluted with fossil fuels and smoke can provoke asthma symptoms to become worse.

Childhood Infections

Some viral infections can cause asthma during the early life of a child. The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been traced to provoke asthma in the later stages of an individual. RSV is the key cause of childhood pneumonia. Another infection is Chlamydia in the respiratory tract. In addition to that, infants who had lung infections within the first weeks after birth have a high chance of developing asthma in their later life. The rhinovirus that causes common colds can also lead to the development of asthma. A study on the rhinovirus shows that children who have several attacks of the rhinovirus may develop the wheezing asthma in their later lives (American Society for Microbiology).

Socio-economic Status of a Person

The research points out that, a nation with a low Gross Domestic Profit has a high chance of developing asthma. People at a higher socio-economic level have better chances of accessing clean and spacious houses, prevention of allergens occurrences than those in the lower classes.

Other Causes

Medications that lead to tightening of the airwave muscles are some of the most common causes of asthma. In some cases, individuals with strong emotions can also suffer from the condition. Exercises can induce asthma in some individuals.

Occupational Asthma

The work place has several substances that can cause asthma. Chemicals, dust from sawn wood and grains, and fungi can provoke occupational asthma. Studies have shown that workers in bakeries, drug-manufacturing companies, millers, laboratories, detergent manufacturing companies, and farms are at a high risk of developing occupational asthma (Joshi and Isaacs 50).

Symptoms of Asthma

Wheezing is a whistling sound, high in pitch made by a child when under an asthma attack. It is vital to know that not all children have asthma and vice versa. Severe coughing during nighttime and in the early morning hours could be an indication of an asthma attack. A person tires to cough in order to clear mucus from the airways. Shortness of breath during exercises is also a clear sign of an imminent asthma attack. On most occasions, if children are running, they usually regain to breathe within the least time possible. However, if child takes time to regain breathe, the parent should contact a physician (Joshi and Isaacs 51).

Uncomfortable or tight chest is also a symptom of asthma. If a child complains of a tight chest, a caregiver should contact a doctor.

Epidemiology

Statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics show the occurrence of asthma in children aged 18 years and below amplified from 4 per 100 in 1980 to 8 per 100 as of the year 1996 (Greally 126). The most susceptible individuals are the children of the African origin while children of the Caucasian origin were the least affected. On the same line, hospitalization and death rates of the African American children are four and a half times higher than that of Caucasian children. However, one can point to the rise in asthma cases because there is increased differentiation of asthma from bronchitis as from 1995. Increase in morbidity rates among African American children could be due to the lack of access to healthcare and improper prevention measures. Other factors include poor housing, living in dirty environments, smoking of cigarettes considering the fact that most of African Americans who live in the urban areas are poor. High levels of illiteracy among the caregivers are also to blame for the high rates of morbidity and mortality. Although the overall mortality rates have remained low, deaths among the African-American people are on the rise. The early intervention can also help in the reduction of incidents of the disease during the adult life of a person.

Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors in asthma deaths are due to the previous chronic exacerbations of an asthmatic person. The other one is a previous admission into the healthcare organization’s Intensive Care Unit. Although some risk factors are causative, others promote mortality among asthmatic persons. The other factor is atopy, which is the most vital risk factor for asthmatics. Almost 50% of the children are atopic in comparison to adults. A study conducted on children in East and West Germany showed that there was no difference between the occurrence rates of asthma and atopy in children (Greally 110). Exposure to tobacco smoke, low birth weights during pregnancy make children to be at a higher risk of getting asthma. Illicit use of drugs, having a heart disease, serious psychosocial problems, low economic status, and poor urban residence are some of the factors that could lead to mortality of asthmatic patients. Concurrent use of steroids,more than two canisters for every month, is also a risk factor for asthmatic person’s death (Greally 131-140).

Management and Treatment

There are two major medications for asthma but their mechanism of working is very different. Corticosteroids act by reducing the inflammation of the airways to allow the smooth passage of air into the lungs. The next drugs are bronchodilators, which help in the reduction of airway spasm. Inhalants are preferred over oral medications because inhalants produce faster results. Oral drugs include aminopylline and corticosteroid tablets. In the past, adrenaline was used. Although it has a fast mode of action, it has numerous side effects like nausea, rapid heart rate, panic, and headaches. Other ways through which asthma can be managed is the adoption of preventive measures. A person should avoid cold places, staying in the environment full of dust and pollen, foods that have allergens and drug abuse.

In conclusion, asthma is a condition that can be managed. Careful observation of a patient can help a caregiver to make important decisions about the health of an asthmatic patient. Patients suffering from asthma should avoid use of beta-blockers, for instance, Inderal and Tenormin (Greally 141). These drugs can lead to the increase of mortality rates among asthmatic people. Living healthy in the hygienic environment can reduce the chances of attacks. It is vital to note that, the environment is a very important factor in the rate of asthma attacks. Children with asthma can also outgrow the disease if they are placed under good care.

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