Asthma Information - symptom, cause, treatment, picture of asthma
What is Asthma ?
Asthma literally meaning difficult breathing or gasping for breath, is an allergic disorder. Roughly one percent of the world population suffers from asthma.
Asthma is an ancient Greek word meaning " panting or short- drawn breath." It is the most troublesome of the respiratory diseases. The asthma patient gets frequent attacks of breathlessness in between which he is completely normal.
Allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body to a normally harmless substance. Substances like pollens of the flowers, spores of fungi, house dust, eggs, fish, wheat, nickel, chromium or milk are harmless to most people, except those who are allergic to them. Pollens, fungal spores or dust can cause recurrent bouts of sneezing or asthma; foods like eggs, fish or wheat may cause skin rashes, diarrhea or abdominal cramps; nickel and chromium can cause skin rashes and swelling, diarrhea and abdominal cramps are the various external manifestations of allergy.
The substance that causes reaction in an allergy-prone person is called an allergen or antigen.The body opposes such as allergen or antigen by producing antibodies.
When the offending allergen and the antibodies react, substances like histamine and serotonin are released into the blood stream. These released substances give rise to various manifestations of allergy like spasm (involuntary contraction) of the muscles of lung airways in asthma, or exudation of fluid from the nasal mucous membrane in cases of seasonal sneezing or irritation, swelling and redness of the skin in case of urticaria.
Asthma, seasonal or perennial sneezing, urticaria and eczema are many and different manifestations of one condition- allergy. A person may have eczema in childhood, develop sneezing when he grows up and then may contract asthma. A parent may have asthma and amongst his sons, one may have eczema and the other sneezing.
Thus in Asthma, what is inherited is allergy and not a particular manifestation of allergy.
Symptoms of Asthma
Patients suffering from asthma appear to be gasping for breath. Actually, they have more trouble
exhaling than inhaling because the air passages of the small bronchi become clogged and
constricted with mucus, thus making it difficult for the patient to breathe out. All asthmatics have
more difficulty at night, especially during sleep.
The onset of asthma is either gradual or abrupt. Sudden onsets are often preceded by a spell of
coughing which may be associated with itching of the chin, the back of the neck or chest. When
the onset is gradual, the attack is usually brought on by respiratory infection. A severe attack
causes an increase in heartbeat and respiratory rates and the patient feels restless and fatigued.
There may be coughing, tightness inthe chest, profuse sweating and vomiting. There may also
be abdominal pain, especially if coughing is severe. Foggy weather aggravates the symptoms.
An asthmatic attack begins when the bronchial tubes in the lungs become constricted. The tubes
having become narrow, the inhaled air becomes trapped in the tiny air sacs at the end of the
tubes, making the release of breath difficult. The wheezing sound identified with asthma is
produced by the air being pushed through the narrowed bronchi.
Causes of Asthma
Mainly bronchial in its symptoms, asthma is caused by a variety of factors. For many it is an
allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the system to the weather, food, drugs, perfumes
and other irritants which vary with different individuals. Allergies to dust are the most common.
Some persons are sensitive to the various forms of dust like cotton dust, wheat dust and paper
dust, some pollens, animal hair, fungi and insects, especially cockroaches. Foods which
generally cause allergic reactions are wheat, eggs, milk, chocolates, beans, potato, pork and
For others, asthma may result from the abnormal body chemistry involving the system’s
enzymes or a defect in muscular action within the lungs. Quite often, however, asthma is
precipitated by a combination of allergic and non- allergic factors including emotional tension, air
pollution, infections and hereditary factors. It has been estimated that when both parents have
asthma or hay fever, in 75 to 100 per cent cases, the offspring also has allergic reactions.
Treatment for asthma
Asthma, particularly when the attack is severe, tends to destroy the appetite. IN such cases, do
not force the patient to eat. He should be kept on fast till the attack is over. He should, however,
take a cup of warm water every two hours. An enema taken at that time will be very beneficial.
Honey is considered highly beneficial in the treatment of asthma. It is said that if a jug of honey
is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with
the honey, he starts breathing easier and deeper. The effect lasts for about an hour or so. This is
because honey contains a mixture of ‘higher’ alcohols and ethereal oils and the vapors given off
by them are soothing and beneficial to the asthma patient. Honey usually brings relief whether
the air flowing over it is inhaled or whether it is eaten or taken either in milk or water. It thins out
accumulated mucous and helps its elimination from the respiratory passages. It also tones up
the pulmonary parenchyma and thereby prevents the production of mucous in future. Some
authorities recommend one year old honey for respiratory disease.
Related Topics on Asthma
What is Asthma ?
Factors that predispose to asthma
Do's and Don'ts of Asthma
What should be the diet of an Asthma Patient?
Home Remedy for Asthma
Treatment during Asthma Attack