World Asthma Day: Facts You Don’t Know About The Chronic Disease In SA

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May 2nd is marked the World Asthma Day – an annual event staged by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to help improve asthma awareness in all countries of the world.

The first World Asthma Day was celebrated in the year 1998 and it is commemorated on the first Tuesday of every year. World Asthma Day 2017 falls on May 2.

Believe it or not, reports have it that no lesser than 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide with over 400 000 dying from the disease each year.

Shocking as it may sound, South Africa still leads on the highest age-adjusted asthma death rate per million population having 1.5% death rates of the disease condition each year, according to the 2014 Global Asthma Report by the Global Asthma Network.

Interestingly, many people have the disease without knowing it.

 What is Asthma? 

Asthma is one of the world’s common but serious and chronic diseases affecting the lungs. It is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. These airways, (bronchial tubes) allow air to come in and out of the lungs.

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In a layman’s term, the disease is a long-term problem in the tubes that carry air into your lungs that can make it hard for one to breathe. When these airways get narrow, the air that makes easy breathing possible reduces thereby causing serious wheezing and breathlessness, what is referred to as Asthma attack.

The disease imposes a substantial burden on patients, their families, and the community. It causes respiratory symptoms, limitation of activity, and flare-ups (attacks) that sometimes require urgent health care.

Symptoms of Asthma
Some of the most common signs of asthma include:

  • Coughing, especially at night, during exercise, or when laughing.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound in your chest when breathing, especially when exhaling

Meanwhile, some of the factors that may trigger or worsen asthma symptoms include viral infections, domestic or occupational allergens (e.g., house dust mite, pollens, cockroach), tobacco smoke, exercise, and stress.

Studies suggest that young adults who smoke are more likely to get asthma. While secondhand smokers (those who inhale fumes given off by a burning tobacco product) stand a greater chance of having an asthma attack. Kids who are around people who smoke have a higher chance of getting the disease early in life.

World Asthma Day : Who Gets Asthma?

Asthma develops during childhood, but it can affect anyone at any age. People with a family history of allergies are more prone to developing asthma. However, more boys have asthma than girls, but it’s more common in women than in men.

Other people who are likely to have lung disease include the obese. CDC found that 4 in 10 adults with asthma were obese, while fewer than 3 in 10 adults without asthma were.

Kinds of Asthma



Occupational Asthma: This kind of asthma is caused by the kinds of jobs one does. Inhaling fumes, gasses, dust or other potentially harmful substances while working in factories can escalate one’s chances of being asthmatic.

Childhood Asthma: This kind of Asthma affects millions of children and their families. In fact, the majority of children who develop asthma do so before the age of five.

Asthma in South Africa: How Bad is it?

Asthma prevalence in Southern Africa is said to remain high in South Africa than any other parts of the continent. Cipla Medpro Medical Director, Dr. Nic de Jongh said in 2016, that more than 20% of school children across the SA region suffer from this chronic respiratory condition. In South

“In South Africa, asthma is the third most common cause of hospital admissions of children, yet only 2% of asthmatics receive treatment,” said the medical director. Despite

Despite the availability of medication for treatment and management at state’s own facilities, it’s disheartening to know that many South Africans still die from asthma disease. This is mainly because most of the patients don’t recognize the symptoms, have never been diagnosed, or do not use the medication as prescribed.

More to this is the fact that the SA health system is overwhelmed by HIV-related lung diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and asthma and its dangers are often under-appreciated.

This is why awareness campaigns about asthma in South Africa are so crucial. This is also the reason behind the World Asthma Day marked every first Tuesday of the month of May.

A good move to bridge this gap, Cipla Medpro launched its Asthma Education initiative called “Breathe Free”. The initiative, which follows the asthma treatment guidelines as set out by GINA and other reputable bodies, will serve to educate South Africans

The initiative, which follows the asthma treatment guidelines as set out by GINA and other reputable health bodies, set out to educate South Africans about this health condition and how its spread. Breathe Free clinics will be accessible at healthcare facilities and pharmacies nationwide.

Breathe Free clinics will be accessible at healthcare facilities and pharmacies nationwide.

Pulmonologist, Dr. Justus Kilian says the high death rate of asthma sufferers in South Africa is likely to reflect the living conditions conducive to asthma aggravation. He said that the socio-economic disparity in access to quality healthcare may also be one of the reasons affecting asthma diagnosis and treatment.

He also said that the socio-economic disparity in access to quality healthcare may also be one of the reasons affecting asthma diagnosis and treatment.

“Asthma diagnosis and treatment is often inadequate, especially because there are many misconceptions about the disease and how it should be treated, one being that asthmatics usually outgrow the disease, however, asthmatic triggers can occur only later in life. Educating the public and patients will certainly encourage the adherence to action plans, which will lead to reporting of symptoms long before an emergency will develop,” Kilian explains.

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Though no cure has so far been developed, Asthma can be effectively treated and most patients can achieve good control of their asthma. When asthma is under good control, patients can:

  • Avoid troublesome symptoms during day and night
  • Need little or no reliever medication
  • Have productive, physically active lives
  • Have normal or near normal lung function
  • Avoid serious flare-ups (exacerbation, or attacks)

Awareness, education and accessible information can turn this around. Parents, patients, doctors, support groups and teachers all need to be able to recognize the symptoms and take appropriate action.

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