BREATH OF RELIEF
Chest physician and allergologist Dr Pramod Nipadhkar gives you simple tips to measure and manage your asthma to lead a fulfilling lifeBreathe this fact: According an estimate by the Asthma and Bronchitis Association of India, around 75 lakh people in Maharashtra and about 12 lakh in Mumbai suffer from asthma. Blame it on the city's frenzied lifestyle that leaves one breathless, both literally and figuratively. Congestion, never-ending traffic lines, increasing pollution and stress only serve to worsen the condition. Interestingly, the number of severe asthma cases in India is less than in developed countries where cold climate, closed atmosphere and pollen in the environment add to the problem. However, lack of preparedness, poor infrastructure and carelessness are responsible for fatalities in the disease here. The recent controversial incident involving Delhi teenager Akriti Bhatia, who died after an asthma attack while she was in school, is a case in point. Some experts believe that had timely action been taken, perhaps Akriti's life could have been saved. Needless to say, prevention and precaution is the best medicine in treatment of asthma too. And it's not difficult. All you need to do is be aware of the severity of your disease and half the battle is won.
UNDERSTAND YOUR ASTHMA
As with other diseases, there are varying degrees of severity among asthmatics too. Also, there are varied types – brittle, allergic, seasonal, reversible and irreversible and so on. Generally, the following patients are considered most vulnerable:
• Those who contracted the disease early in life
• Those whose ailment is so severe they need to be on steroids
• Those who have psychological problems – eg. depression along with asthma
• Those whose relatives might have passed away due to the disease (generally shows inclination towards severity).
IS IT ALL SO SUDDEN?
Most people believe asthma attacks are sudden occurrences where often the patient has little or no time to react. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even in a patient in severe category, attacks are preceded by certain signals, which if recognised, can prepare you to handle any emergency. Just watch out for these signals.
• Getting persistent coughs
• Difficulty in completing even a full sentence
• Difficulty in walking some distance
• Tightness in the chest
• No relief in standard procedure like inhalers.
MEASURE YOUR ASTHMA
So if you have any of these symptoms, remember that it's time to measure your asthma. In most cases, a simple reading using the Peak Flow meter is enough to establish the severity. This is a simple device (available in the market) that looks like a pipe with calibrated spring inside. All a patient has to do is blow into it from one end and the device shows the reading of your breath. The standard for a healthy adult male is 450-550 l-m (litres per minute) while for a woman it is 350-450 l-m. An asthmatic's readings are interpreted as: 80 per cent of expected: Normal 60 per cent to 80 per cent: Mild 40 per cent-60 per cent: Moderate Below 40 per cent: Severe asthma
Simply put, if you
suffer any symptom of an attack, immediately conduct a severity test using this device. It can make all the difference.
A certain amount of discipline too can go a long way in warding off an attack prime among which is being alert and taking medicines properly. Other steps include:
• Lung function test: One of the most perfect methods to measure asthma condition, it is imperative that a patient undergo one, at least once a year.
• Build up immunity: Exercise. It's the best medicine. Go for frequent walks, take up a sport, just engross yourself in any hobby.
• Diet changes: Include plenty of salads, green vegetables, fruits and water. Have fresh curds during lunch. It contains lactobacillus which helps build immunity. Especially on days, when the symptoms are more severe be very careful of what you eat.
• Strengthen respiratory muscles: Practise yoga, Pranayam and breathing exercises. Meditate.
• Follow the doc: Don't reduce or stop medication until told otherwise. Treatment should be supervised.
5-STEP FIRST AID 1. Dont panic. Learn not to get overwhelmed by the attack 2. Give yourself the correct dosage of Salbutamol inhaler. Two puffs to be taken four times, every five minutes 3. If there is no relief, repeat procedure after 10 mins 4. If that fails too, take steroid tablet Prebisolone 5. In case of no relief, take nebuliser with Salubutamol inhaler.
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