We have just crossed the 20th annual World Asthma Day, an event held each May to raise awareness of Asthma worldwide. World Asthma Day is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma, or GINA (www.ginasthma.org), a World Health Organisation collaborative and 501(c)3 organisation founded in 1993.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide. And of these 235 million, 1/10th happen to be in India. Now that is a large number. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to control asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes.
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma comes into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscle around the walls of the airways tightens so that the airway becomes narrower. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Often sticky mucus or phlegm is produced. All these reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – leading to the symptoms of asthma. Common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing or a whistling noise in the chest, getting shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest.
Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. It is not just a public health problem for high income countries: it occurs in all countries regardless of level of development. Over 80% of asthma deaths occurs in low and lower-middle income countries. The disease is under-diagnosed and under-treated, creating a substantial burden to individuals and families and possibly restricting individuals’ activities for a lifetime. Asthma attacks cause adults to miss work and children to miss school. These dangerous and sometimes life-threatening episodes reduce the quality of life for people with asthma.
However, the good news is that we can raise awareness about asthma and how it can be controlled. People with asthma can prevent asthma attacks if they learn how to avoid asthma triggers like tobacco smoke, mould, outdoor air pollution, and colds and flu. Asthma episodes can also be prevented by using inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed daily long-term control medicines correctly.
This year’s World Asthma Day theme is “NEVER TOO EARLY, NEVER TOO LATE. It’s always the right time to address airways disease. The theme provides a call to action for both patients and healthcare providers worldwide to evaluate symptoms regardless of the timepoint in one’s life they may occur and take actions to ensure that the asthma is controlled.
World Asthma Day was first held in 1998, and has grown each year to become one of the most important asthma events globally. On World Asthma Day, hundreds of awareness-raising activities will take place in countries all over the world.