Revealed! Many Nigerians can’t control their asthma!

Revealed! Many Nigerians can’t control their asthma!

Asthma Patient

A recent survey has revealed that only few Nigerians could be said to be in control of the dreaded condition. According to the Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention (GINA), asthma control means that a person with asthma has:

  • No (or minimal) asthma symptoms
  • No waking at night due to asthma
  • No (or minimal) need to use “reliever medication”
  • The ability to do normal physical activity and exercise
  • Normal (or near normal) lung function test results (PEF and FEV1)
  • No (or very infrequent) asthma attacks.

Not only that,  experts say majority of asthma patients in Nigeria are under-diagnosed and those diagnosed are not receiving adequate management. Also, there is a general low level of awareness about the disease, especially its chronic nature and various strategies for its treatment, even among medical personnel.

Also, very few asthmatics in Nigeria know their peak flow. Yet, experts say a peak flow meter remains the key to determining how an individual could tell the exact state of his asthma to be able to prevent an attack. If peak flow numbers are declining, it indicates that the condition is getting worse and the asthmatic must then act quickly to prevent an attack. Most Nigerian asthmatics have never seen a peak flow metre, acknowledged as a very important part of asthma care plan.

“With the level of asthma care available to Nigerians, it is surprising that the nation does not record very high emergency cases of asthma,” said a general medical practitioner who pleaded anonymity. There are several reasons to agree with him. Apart from ignorance on the part of both the asthmatics and their doctors on how to manage the condition and stay free of attack, many doctors will not consider referring patients to specialists even when their patients no longer respond to basic treatments.

At a World Asthma Day lecture sometime ago, renowned consultant respiratory physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Cyril Chukwu disclosed that while asthma control can be achieved , data have shown that a majority of patients are still uncontrolled despite frequent visit to their doctors or pharmacists.

Chukwu  described “uncontrolled asthma” as  a serious concern as it causes patients to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and disturbed sleep. Also, he said, uncontrolled asthma patients use more healthcare resources and because they overestimate their control and under-report their symptoms, it makes it difficult for doctors to assess asthma control correctly.

However, the chest physician  says asthma need not result in death in  most cases. This is because guideline-defined asthma control incorporates a number of parameters, including not waking at night and not using reliever medication more than twice per week, which should make the individual asthmatic live a relatively healthy live.

“It is  important to asses asthma control to prevent exacerbation. With the right treatment approach, asthma care can be improved,” he says.

                                                                   Controling your asthma asthma

Asthma Patient 2                                                                       Know the symptoms

Learn the symptoms of asthma. One of the most common symptoms of asthma is wheezing. It is a musical, high-pitched, whistling sound made when airflow is blocked in the lungs. Sometimes, the only symptom of asthma is coughing. The cough is usually non-productive, chronic, and mostly at night. You may also notice shortness of breath/difficulty breathing or chest tightness and pain. If you experience anxiety and hyperventilation (rapid breathing), it’s usually associated with asthma attacks. It is not usually caused by a heart problem.

Know when to see your doctor

If you notice an increase in episodes, severity, or symptoms at night you should talk with your doctor. Also, if you’re limiting your normal activities, missing a lot of work or school, or feel like you’re not reaching your personal best on a regular basis you should see your doctor. A visit is also a good idea if your asthma medications don’t seem to work anymore or you’re using quick-relief inhalers more than twice per week. You should also see your doctor (or a chest physician) at least once a year for new prescriptions for your medication.

Seek emergency treatment when necessary

Asthma can create a serious, life-threatening condition very quickly, so you should seek immediate assistance if you have the following symptoms:

  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Lips, fingers, or fingernails turning blue
  • Feeling as though you are about to pass out
  • Not being able to walk or talk in full sentences

Understand testing and asthma classifications

Your doctor or chest physician will perform tests on your lungs to see how they’re functioning (known as Spirometry). Your lungs will be tested before and after taking certain medications. The improvement in your lung function after these medications will determine how the asthma is diagnosed. Asthma may be classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent.

Avoid environmental triggers

Asthma triggers can be categorized as irritants, allergens, and other triggers. Irritants include smoke, smog, chemical fumes, and strong odours. You should know what kind of weather bothers your asthma and try to limit outdoor activity during these times. There are also other things you can do to decrease the effects of irritants within your immediate environment. These include

  • Avoiding environments where people smoke
  • Avoiding fireplaces and wood stoves
  • Refraining from burning incense indoors
  • Using home air conditioning instead of opening windows
  • Setting car air conditioning to recirculate
  • Using scent-free products
  • Avoiding the use of ammonia and bleach while cleaning
  • Using exhaust fans while cooking
  • Wearing a protective mask while doing tasks such as sanding, dusting, mowing, and sweeping

Identify allergens that trigger your asthma

Allergens are substances that cause allergic reactions. Common outdoor allergens include pollens from grass, trees, and weeds. Common indoor allergens include dust mites, cockroaches, mold, and pets. While it may not always be possible to avoid allergens, you can talk to your doctor about allergy treatments or medications. You can also try to decrease the effects of allergens on asthma by:

  • Covering mattresses and pillows with hypoallergenic covers
  • Replacing carpet with wood or tile floors
  • Removing garbage from the home daily
  • Using bait stations or traps to control cockroaches (or calling a fumigator)
  • Cleaning damp areas weekly to prevent mold growth
  • Avoiding the use of vaporizers and humidifiers
  • Avoiding pets with fur or feathers

Watch out for medicine or illness triggers

Colds, flu, and sinus infections are some upper respiratory illnesses that can irritate your airways and cause asthma attacks. To fight these illnesses, frequently wash your hands and get a flu shot every year. If you think you have the flu or another illness that is causing your asthma to flare up, contact your doctor. Note that some aspirin and anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen are responsible for some asthma flare-ups. Check labels on over-the-counter and prescription medications to avoid these substances.

Manage your emotions and stress

Emotions such as crying, laughing, or joy have been known to trigger asthma events. Practice slow breathing to relax and prevent asthma attacks. Try exercising to manage stress. Don’t avoid exercise if you have asthma. If you do have exercise-induced asthma, take a dose of a quick-relief inhaler 15 minutes before you start to exercise. Be aware that overly intense exercise (or implementing a new exercise regimen too suddenly) can cause asthma to flare.

Drink more water

Drinking water will keep mucus moving in your lungs and prevent it from clogging up your airways, which can lead to shortness of breath. Try to drink a small glass of water at least once every 2 hours while you’re awake.

  • Courtesy: wikiHow


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