Chronic Respiratory conditions are on an exponential rise, now more than ever, with drastic decrease in the quality of air we breathe, unfortunately shadowed by pandemic infections like COVID-19, which continue to dominate the health discourse in the media. Among these, Asthma is the most common condition, affecting both adults and children. In fact, in 2019, even before COVID set its foot, Asthma affected over 262 million people globally and caused 461,000 deaths. Among India’s 1.31 billion people, about 6% of children and 2% of adults have asthma. To put it simply, 1 in every 10 Asthma patients in the world is from India.
While the world is healing from the aftermath of Covid crisis, it is time to focus on this controllable respiratory condition using the same wherewithal. Unfortunately, it continues to present as a challenge similar to what Covid was in 2019. Asthma is often under-diagnosed and un-treated, especially in most countries with poor health infrastructure. In 2015, the Indian Chest Society and National College of Chest Physicians published the National Indian Asthma Guidelines in to increase awareness about this disease and its diagnosis. But even today, these guidelines continue to be underutilised resulting in continued existence of several myths and misconceptions amongst the patients that pose hurdles in diagnosis and right treatment. We must work towards closing this yawning gap by continuously spreading awareness and exploding myths.
Let us examine some of the common myths:
Myth: Inhalers, nebulisers, etc., are strong, habit-forming medicines
Fact: Quite opposite to the popular perception, inhaled medications require much smaller doses, have fewer side effects, and are safer for long-term use. Sadly, more than 80% asthma patients prefer oral medications today. This is largely attributed to the unfamiliarity and lack of know-how about proper use of inhalers and nebulisers. When they are used as advised by the doctor, can significantly improve patient’s controlover asthma as compared to oral medications.
Myth: Asthma is an “psychogenic” disease! It’s all in the head. Since anxiety, stress and emotional distress trigger asthma attacks, this condition can completely be cured by “managing” thoughts or psychological counseling
Fact: False. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs. Optimal mental health can cannot guarantee a complete relief from asthma but can only facilitate better response to treatment. There are other important triggers like smoke, pollution, and dust that precipitate asthma attacks as well.
Myth: Asthma can be treated only with a balanced diet.
Fact: There is almost no medical evidence that one’s diet can treat asthma. While balanced diet with right amount of nutrition can help patients improve their health conditions, there is no evidence directly linking diet to the treatment of asthma. It is definitely in the best interests of asthma patients to ensure optimal intake of nutrients and vitamins, to maintain good health but right medication as prescribed by the Doctor is the mainstay of medical management.
Myth: Asthma reduces with age
Fact: Asthma can be controlled and treated if it is diagnosed at a young age, however, it is not necessarily curable. Even if the symptoms subside, Asthma may recur after a few days, months oryears, or decades, primarily due to the common triggers of the disease. In fact, many adults show symptoms of asthma without being diagnosed during their early years. Asthma can be best managed through regular treatment as suggested by the Doctor and it is important to avoid the triggers during any stageof life.
Myth: Asthma patients should not exercise and must limit physical activities Fact: Exercise helps in alleviating inflammation and reducing the symptoms of asthma – however, asthma patients need to consult their doctor before initiating any exercise routine as depending upon the stage of the disease the physical activities need to be personalised.
Inhalation of anti-asthmatic medicines is a proven technique to treat Asthma. In order to ensure practice of correct inhalation procedure, Lupin has started a virtual initiative called JAI (Joint Airway Initiative) where Asthma and COPD patients are explained about the correct inhalation method along with various activities to manage the disease. Patients can visit www.jairespi.com and register themselves free of cost.
During the Covid crisis, everyone realized the importance of good functioning lungs to maintain adequate Oxygen levels circulating in our bodies. On this World Asthma Day, let us pledge to focus the same attention on asthmatics who can maintain normal lung function if they are better informed and understand the right treatment that stops Asthma taking their breath away. Having tackled the Covid crisis much before many other countries, I hope and wish that India can also put behind this 2 nd most important lung disease on the backfoot and “inspire” new breath of life to “expire” this age old malady.