Over the years, asthma is becoming one of a common non-communicable disease affecting 6% of children and 2% of adults in India. According to the WHO survey (2019), almost 262 million people are affected by asthma globally. Over than 80% of asthma-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries wherein the diagnosis and treatment continue to be a challenge. In addition to that, increasing air pollution is an environmental risk factor that causes the progression of disease. Asthma can either be a minor problem or a complicated issue that can affect the person daily activities. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Vikas Mittal, Associate Director, Pulmonology and Sleep, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, about the early warning signs of asthma.
Asthma also known as allergic bronchitis is usually a familial disease which runs in families. It occurs mainly in a genetically predisposed person who is born with sensitive lining of the small airways (bronchi) in the lungs. This lining becomes swollen (inflamed) and thus airway gets narrowed, which limits the flow of air out of the lungs (figure 1). This narrowing occurs periodically, usually related to specific triggers like exposure to cold air, outdoor air pollution and indoor pollution (eg, paint, perfume, deodorizers and tobacco smoke), viral infections, exercise, exposure to allergens and irritants like pollen grains (eg seasonal allergies), various molds (eg, during rainy seasons or in damp areas), house dust (ie, dust mites), cockroaches, insects and animal furs and sometimes stress. Read further to know more about asthma symptoms.
Early warning signs of asthma
Asthma is a long-standing (chronic) condition in which this narrowing causes problems that may include cough, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, and/or difficulty breathing. Good news is that this narrowing is almost always completely reversible with treatment. Asthma may have one of several distinct patterns of symptoms which can help you know if its asthma or not. Check for the following signs to know if you have asthma:
1. Intermittent problems with no problems between attacks especially occurring with change of seasons and on exposure to triggers mentioned above.
2. Morning “dipping,” when problems worsen in the morning and improve as the day progresses.
3. Long standing problems with intermittent worsening
4. Problems and attacks that become more severe or frequent over time but with interval periods of normalcy
5. Problems that begin during upper respiratory tract infections (eg, common colds) and linger for several weeks after, with resolution during warmer weather when respiratory infections are typically less common
6. Most asthma episodes/exacerbations develop slowly over a period of several days. Uncommonly, a severe attack can occur suddenly, even in someone with intermittent asthma, and with minimal warning
Main symptoms experienced by asthma patients
The below listed symptoms can be common to many other lung diseases as well as asthma:
The cough is usually dry and hacking and is often most noticeable while you sleep and during early morning hours. It may also be triggered by exercise or cold air exposure.
Wheezing is a high-pitched, musical sound that is usually heard when the you breathe out. This occurs due to the narrowing of your airways
Breathlessness or shortness of breath also more in night and early morning hours and can make it difficult for you to do your normal daily activities which require exertion like climbing stairs etc.
4. Chest tightness
Chest tightness or pressure, and chest pain may also occur if you might be asthmatic. You need to consult with a doctor if it becomes a recurring or prolonged problem.
5. Runny nose, blocked nose and frequent sneezing
As nose is part of airway, Allergy of nose and so the nose problems is almost always associated with asthma symptoms
It is important to know that if any of the above symptoms are experienced, you must visit a medical expert for early diagnosis to ger optimal results. Even though asthma cannot be cured, its symptoms can be controlled through early intervention, which can help you lead a normal and healthy life.