“Children exposed to tobacco smoke are at a higher risk of asthma attacks,” said Dr Javaid Khan, Head, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Aga Khan University, at a seminar held at the University to commemorate World Asthma Day on May 5. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes breathlessness and wheezing and is most common among children. In Pakistan, about 11 per cent children and 5 per cent adults suffer from asthma. “The government must protect people from pollution from tobacco smoke by fully implementing the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance, passed in 2002, which calls for a ban on smoking at all public places, including restaurants and public transport.”
Asthma attacks can be triggered by a number of factors that include insects, animals or inhaled allergens such as dust mites, pollen and tobacco smoke. “Each asthmatic person reacts to a different set of factors. Identifying these factors and learning how to avoid them is a major step for patients to learn how to manage their disease,” said Dr Asif Imam, Consultant Immunologist and Allergist, AKU. Dr Nawal Salahuddin, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, AKU, agreed and stressed that the goal of asthma treatment is to achieve and maintain control of the disease. “People need to educate themselves about how to take their medicines and to avoid the ‘triggers’ that set off attacks,” said Dr Salahuddin, adding that inhalers are the most effective and safest form of treatment, since they help deliver medicine directly to the lungs.
Regular physical examinations and tests can help diagnose asthma,according to Dr Ahmed Suleman Haque, Assistant Professor, Medicine Section of Pulmonology, Department of Medicine, AKU. “Blood tests are of little value, but having lung function tests can help diagnose and monitor asthma.” Although it cannot be cured, asthma can be treated effectively, and with proper management,people with asthma can have normal and full lives.
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