It’s Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month and it’s as good a time as any to learn more about the disease. Millions of people worldwide live with asthma, and while there are many things that we can do in the modern world to minimize the impact of asthma on those who have it, we should all do our part to educate ourselves so that we can be of help to those who suffer from this incurable disease.
Asthma is caused by the swelling and inflammation of the breathing tubes in our lungs. This swelling causes the airways in the tubes to narrow temporarily, making it more difficult to get air and oxygen through your lungs. Having an asthma attack is troubling, with symptoms ranging from shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing to chest tightness, and episodes of confusion and agitation. These are things most people know about the disease.
But what are some things you might not know? To help with asthma awareness, here are five interesting things about asthma.
Asthma can be triggered by bacteria. Doctors have long known that asthma attacks can be triggered by viruses, especially the ones that infect the upper respiratory tract like the common cold or the flu. But there has been research in the last decade has shown that bacteria can also trigger asthma attacks.
This is an interesting development because it opens the possibility of treating people with antibiotics in order to alleviate symptoms. So while things like the novel coronavirus are definitely capable of triggering asthma attacks, it may be that bacteria can also make your asthma worse.
Treating asthma with medicine may actually exacerbate asthma. This is known as the Asthma Paradox. In the US, the medical costs for treating asthma ballooned to over $50 billion in 2009, up from $4 in 1985. A big part of the problem is the overreliance on advanced treatments for asthma, such as short-acting beta 2 agonists (SABA). These treatments alleviate the symptoms but actually cause increased long-term inflammation instead, accelerating the worsening of the disease and making people more reliant on treatment. Asthma begets asthma, and many in the medical community have been criticizing this approach to treating the disease.
Yawning is one of the key symptoms of asthma. Here’s a weird asthma fact: the most popular symptom for asthma is wheezing, and then a non-productive dry cough. But did you know that yawning is also a common sign that you are having asthma problems? Asthma basically causes an oxygen deficiency in your body because the narrow airways result in less oxygen getting into your system.
When this happens, one of the things your body does to cope with the lower levels of oxygen is to induce yawning. Yawning helps the body bring in more oxygen into your system, and is common when asthma is a problem.
Fatigue goes hand in hand with asthma. A lot of people with asthma avoid strenuous physical activity because it can trigger an attack. But did you know that people can also feel very tired when they have asthma, even though they aren’t doing much physical activity? It’s not because they’re lazy; it’s because the body works extra hard to oxygenate the rest of the cells with the limited supply. Your body is literally using up more energy than a normal person even while at rest, just to keep your body oxygenated.
That’s why it’s not uncommon for people to feel really tired when their asthma flares up, even when they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep and didn’t do much tiring activity.
Hispanics are one of the most affected groups. In the US, the data shows that Hispanics are one of the most affected groups hit by asthma. This is attributed to 80% of them living in areas that fail to meet air pollution standards.
Air pollution is something we all know can trigger asthma, and when you combine that with viral infections of the respiratory tract it can be a real downer. It’s a sobering fact how air pollution affected Covid-19 patients severely in the last several months. Quite a few of the deaths from respiratory failure were attributed to the patients being exposed to poor air quality.
If we all do our part and take care to keep the quality of the air we breathe in good order, we can help those who suffer chronically from asthma and allergies. Let’s create healthier homes and workplaces so that we can have #cleanairforall.