What is asthma?Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airway that causes symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Asthma can be triggered by a respiratory infection or air pollution, but in many cases asthma symptoms are caused by allergens such as pollen, house dust mites and animal dander.
Allergic rhinitis is one of the most important predictors of asthma development and control. Since the upper and lower airways are connected, inflammation can spread from the nose (allergic rhinitis) into the lungs (allergic asthma).
Constant exposure to allergens may cause chronic lung inflammation, which will worsen asthma symptoms over time. The longer asthma is left untreated, the more severe it becomes, so it’s important to diagnose allergic rhinitis and asthma as early as possible and begin treatment.
What is ‘the allergic march’?Children with one form of allergy can often go on to develop other forms of allergy during their childhood. For instance, children with food allergies at a very young age may develop respiratory allergies as they grow older. This progression of allergic diseases is known as ‘the allergic march’. The word ‘march’ suggests that children pass through from one stage of allergy to another. The risk of developing asthma later on in life is seven times higher for children with allergic rhinitis. An allergy is the cause of asthma in about 80% of cases.
Asthma in childrenAsthma most often starts early in life. It is the most common chronic lower respiratory disease in childhood throughout the world. Many people consider wheezing synonymous with asthma. Yet, there are many different causes of wheeze in childhood. Children with asthma may experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing. Common asthma triggers include:
• allergens (substances to which people are allergic), such as pollens, foods, house dust mite or animal dander• irritants in the air, such as air pollution and tobacco smoke• respiratory infections, such as colds, flu, sore throat and bronchitis• exercise
A family history of asthma and allergies also increase a child’s risk of developing asthma.
Diagnosis of asthma in children is difficult because symptoms may occur from a number of different conditions. If you suspect that your child might suffer from asthma, consult your doctor who will make a diagnosis based on your medical and family histories, a physical examination, and test results. Spirometry is also an important tool in diagnosing asthma. It’s a simple breathing test that measures the amount of inhaled and exhaled air to see how well the lungs are functioning.
The impact of asthma and allergiesLiving with one or more allergic diseases can have an impact on your quality of life. In children and young people, allergies may affect their sleep, and impair learning, memory and behaviour. Sleepiness and mood swings often lead children to be isolated, perform less at school and even get bullied. In adults, allergic diseases may lead to increased sick days, reduced work productivity and poor concentration.
Asthma can also impact the patient’s quality of life. Asthma can limit the ability to exercise and do the things that you want to do. Asthma not only affects the person with the condition, but it can have a huge impact on the whole family. Parents constantly worry about their child’s health, and children might fear their next asthma attack.
Impact on societyAllergies and asthma not only affect your personal life, but it can have an impact on society as well. One in every four working patients have taken time off work due to allergic rhinitis. Missed working days and reduced productivity due to a poor night’s sleep result in high costs for society. And then there are the direct costs related to managing the disease, such as medication, hospitalization and doctor’s visits.
Important factsAllergic asthma and allergic rhinitis very frequently co-exist in the same person: they are together called respiratory allergy.
Allergic rhinitis increases by 40% the chance of dropping a grade in summer examinations, while adding a sedating drug may further increase it to 70%.
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