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What is the cause of Asthma?

Exactly what causes asthma is unknown. It is hereditary to some extent. A child has a 50% chance of developing asthma if one of their parents has asthma or allergies. That chance rises to 70% if both parents do. When asthma occurs within a family, they are also likely to have a higher rate of food allergies, hay fever and eczema. In all these cases, the body tends to overreact to triggers.

There is a higher likelihood of developing asthma if:

1.The mother smoked during pregnancy
2.The child was born prematurely
3.The child’s birth rate was too low

How is Asthma treated?

With the right treatment, asthma can usually be managed effectively. An effective treatment plan does require a proper diagnosis, however. There are a number of tests available. The test results let the GP get a clear overview of the health, performance and/or sensitivity of your lungs. The doctor will also ask questions about your lifestyle, any allergies, and other relevant factors. Asthma treatment may also require you to stop smoking, get more exercise, or avoid certain substances as much as possible.

Asthma patients are usually prescribed medication. Treatment generally involves medicine that needs to be inhaled. Some of these ‘inhalers’ widen the airways (bronchodilators). Others suppress inflammation.

A doctor may also opt to prescribe medication in a tablet form or propose an alternative course of treatment.

How can you identify an asthma attack?

When you’re having an asthma attack, it’s harder to breathe because your airways are constricted. Your chest will feel tight, and you will probably have an intense coughing fit. Your breath may wheeze or rattle. Other familiar symptoms of an asthma attack include: -Easily tired or out of breath, during exercise and minor exertion going symptoms of a cold, like a stuffed or a runny nose and sneezing

-Ongoing symptoms of a cold, like a stuffed or a runny nose and sneezing ‘Nostril flares’: your nostrils expand with every breath as your body struggles to get enough air

-Irritability, agitation, anxiety-Frequently interrupted sleep

-Pale or blue discolouration of nail beds and oral mucosa (inside lining of lips and cheeks)

-Hunched shoulders

What triggers an asthma attack?

The airways of people with asthma are oversensitive. As a result, they may respond intensely to various factors. This could include pet dander (skin flakes from house pets), but also dust mites, pollen, and some medications or foods. A person having an asthma attack in response to these substances has allergic asthma. An asthma attack can also be triggered by non-allergenic substances. This could include high air humidity, cold air, perfume or cigarette smoke. Finally, an asthma attack can be triggered by stress or intense emotion or by sudden exertion, like sprinting to catch the bus.

What happens during an asthma attack?

If an asthma patient’s airways are triggered, they are easily inflamed. As a result, the mucous membranes in their airways swell up and produce more mucus than normal. The tiny muscles around the airways go into spasm, causing the airways to constrict. This makes it harder to breathe, so the air in the lungs is not replaced fast enough. Chest tightness occurs as the blood oxygen level drops. You will also get tired faster, even during minor exertion. The extra mucus may also cause you to cough. Shortness of breath and coughing are often the first symptoms of an asthma attack.

What should you do about an asthma attack?

In many asthma patients, the symptoms of an asthma attack can be prevented or alleviated effectively by avoiding what they’re oversensitive to (triggers). Maintenance medication (anti-inflammatories) can also help control asthma. If they do have an asthma attack, after all, they can use the medication that they were prescribed. This immediate treatment is often a bronchodilator (medication to widen the airways). When inhaled, this medication will cause the airways to widen, making it easier to breathe. This is usually enough to stop an asthma attack.
Be quick & consistent!

It is very important for you to take your medication quickly, as soon as the symptoms start – and if you’re taking maintenance medication, you need to take it consistently and exactly as prescribed. If you don’t, your symptoms will continue to grow worse. You should also try to stay calm. Stress and intense emotions can also make an asthma attack worse.
In emergency situations

If your attack gets worse despite treatment… Now what?

A number of symptoms indicate a severe attack. Contact your doctor or call emergency services if you experience the following symptoms:

-Your medication does not alleviate your symptoms
-You are so short of breath that you can hardly talk
-It is difficult or impossible to walk
-Your nails and lips are turning blue

Many patients out grow it but sufferers are getting better at knowing what their personal triggers and the most effective medications are. The best way to control this in the long term is primarily the appearance of symptoms.

Follow these simple steps:

1. Know what your personal triggers are (especially allergens) and avoid them – for example, regularly vacuum if you are allergic to home mites.

2. Follow the treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor and conduct an annual check-up.

3. Quit smoking! It not only causes (in yourself and others in your area), it also reduces the effectiveness of steroids used for treatment. See our previous article for advice on smoking. Now that you know that asthma is controllable after reading this article, you can hopefully relieve breathing and sleep better!

© Syed Z Arfeen Medical Advisor

Credit: Wavebreak Media Ltd

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