Wheat husk, Congress grass, pollen and weeds are the most common allergens behind the increase in the number of asthma attacks during this season; vitamin D deficiency and smoke make asthmatic attacks worse, according to information shared by city-based experts on the eve of World Asthma Day on Monday.
At PGIMER, apart from 100 follow-up cases, about 15 new cases of asthmatic attack are reported at the asthma clinic which is run once a week. Most of the victims are in the age group of 5 to 25 years.
“The number increases during the harvesting season when husk and other allergens like pollen and weeds increase in the air,” said Dr Meenu Singh from PGIMER.
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the air passages that make airways narrow temporarily, resulting in difficulty in breathing. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. It is a genetic disease, which means that one can inherit it from parents. There are 25 per cent chances of a child having asthma if one of the parents has it.
Dr S K Jindal, former head of pulmonary department at PGIMER, said, “Asthma is a chronic disease which requires long-term treatment. Many patients stop treatment after some weeks once they feel better. This can be dangerous since stopping treatment can lead to reactivation of the disease and precipitate an asthma attack.”
Reasons behind stopping the medication include unnecessary concerns about side effects, myths about inhaler devices, social stigmas, underestimation of the severity of the condition, and sometimes the cost of medication.
According to Dr Singh, many people treat symptoms like recurrent coughing, early morning coughing, breathlessness and wheezing themselves with cough medicines or over-the-counter drugs. The fear associated with the words ‘asthma’ and ‘inhalers’ usually impacts the correct treatment. Almost 80 per cent asthmatics in India are on oral tablets whereas the rest of the world treats asthma primarily with inhalers.
“The doctors at times find it difficult to convince patients and, therefore, use an alternative term for ‘asthma’ like ‘bronchial spasms’ or ‘wheezing cough’. Further, a doctor might have to prescribe oral tablets to patients to ensure that they don’t give up entirely on the treatment due to fears associated with inhalers,” she said.
Dr A K Mandal from Fortis Hospital said that educated and affluent parents were more difficult to be convinced on inhalation therapy. “The most effective asthma treatment is inhalation therapy and it is available at a price as low as Rs 6 per day,” he said.
The information was shared by doctors while addressing a conference organised by Breathefree, a public service initiative from Cipla.