Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by spasms (swelling) in the bronchi of the lungs which cause difficulty in breathing. Asthma is usually linked to an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.
Asthma affects many people from all walks of life. Tiffany Funga, a University student studying marketing, has suffered from asthma since childhood. “I have had asthma since I was very young. My attacks are triggered by dust, pollen and cold weather.”
Doctor Christopher Pasi, a Specialist Physician at Harare Hospital, says, “Asthma is a reversible airways disease associated with wheezing, coughing, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. It is usually allergy-based and symptoms can worsen when someone exercises, has had the flu, if they have inhaled certain allergens, or if there is a change in weather. Occasionally an excess in emotions – either when one gets too excited or too sad – if they are asthma-prone can cause an attack. Asthma is also genetic.”
Dr Pasi says if one has asthma their airways are always swollen and can worsen when something triggers their symptoms which make it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs. “Signs and symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing shortness of breath and chest tightness. Triggers for asthma include allergies and exposure to allergens such as pet dander, dust mite, pollen, mould and non-allergic triggers which include smoke, pollution, cold air or changes in weather,” he added.
Childhood asthma affects a lot of children who have allergies such as eczema, hay fever or food allergies and an asthma family history. Occupational asthma is caused when one inhales fumes, gases, dust or other harmful substances while at work which triggers asthmatic symptoms. One can even develop asthma symptoms only when exercising which is called exercise-induced bronchonstriction (EIB) or exercise induced asthma (EIA).
“Doctors diagnose asthma by taking a thorough medical test history and performing breathing tests to measure how well ones lungs work. One of the test is called spirometry where you take deep breathes and blow into a sensor to measure the amount of air your lungs can hold and the speed of the air you inhale or exhale. This test diagnoses asthma severity and measures how well treatment is working,” Dr Pasi explained. “So one should not be a prison of their asthma as it can be controlled after diagnoses,” he added.
Funga knows what triggers her asthma attacks and tries by all means to avoid inhaling chalk dust by sitting at the back in her class room, keeping warm when it is cold.
There is no cure for asthma but symptoms can be controlled by taking your medication as directed by your doctor and by avoiding triggers that may cause symptoms. Keep your house clean from dust, pet fur and mould, and keep yourself warm.