One Breath at a Time

Asthma in adults

Asthma day is celebrated all across the world on 7th May. It is celebrated with the aim to create awareness about the chronic ailment and also to support all those who are suffering from it. The theme for 2019 is ‘STOP for asthma’. So let’s discuss a few things about asthma.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-standing disease that affects the breathing tubes in the lungs. When, the breathing tubes of asthma patients get swollen (inflamed), it produces more mucus and causes the airways to constrict. If these air passages become too narrow it becomes extremely difficult for one to breathe.

How do I know I have asthma?

Asthma is symptomised by cough, wheezing breath, shortness of breath and tightness. The feeling is quiet similar to when you are trying to breathe through a straw. In case of an ‘asthma attack’ these symptoms become even more severe such that you won’t be able to complete your sentences and even breathe normally. This often calls for an immediate medical help.

What causes asthma?

It can either be inherited and or caused by environmental factors. It can be triggered by allergies, respiratory infections and irritants like fumes, dust, chemical, stress, exercise, smoke, etc.

How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma is diagnosed by a doctor by referring to your clinical history and through a breathing test called as spirometry or pulmonary function test. In this test you blow into a device which interprets your blowing capacity and gives you a few values which are then compared to ideal values. The physician may be also ask you to take a few blood tests for allergies and to check your immunity.

How is asthma treated?

If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is very important to follow the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will prescribe you a few medications to keep your breathing tubes open and also reduce the swelling, so that air can move in and out easily. These medications will be in the form of inhalers. You may also be given tablets along with the inhalers. Another important aspect that is administered as part of the treatment is lifestyle modification. This starts with you recognising various triggers that may cause symptoms of asthma. Maintaining a diary about this helps a lot.
Once it becomes clear as to what triggers your asthma, you can stay away from it. Getting vaccinations for respiratory infections also helps in preventing an increase in the symptoms.

Will I get addicted to the inhalers?

This is myth in our culture that once you start using inhalers you will get addicted to them. These are medications and there is no evidence that states that they are addictive medications. These medications are required to keep your breathing tubes healthy and keep this chronic ailment under control. In fact, these medications are going to prevent your breathing tubes from suffering irreversible damage due to long-term inflammation. Hence, these medications are not addictive.

How many days do I have to take the treatment?

The treatment is long term. Once your symptoms are completely controlled with the help of a certain dose, it is steadily reduced sequentially until it is stopped. Sometimes you have to take the medications only when the symptoms arise.

Can I exercise?

Yes, exercise is encouraged for healthy life. There is no restriction in exercising. If your symptoms prevent you to exercise please let your doctor know about it so he can make necessary modifications in the medications.

Are these inhalers safe during pregnancy?

It has been proven that the side effects of the inhalers are minimal. In fact, an uncontrolled asthma causes more harm to the healthy pregnancy. Thus, the benefits of taking inhalers far outweigh the risks of its side effects.


Dr. Toshit Pramod Sapkal
Consultant Pulmonologist
People Tree Hospital