Asthma Patients in Uganda Resort to Herbs Over High Cost of Treatment

Joseph Elunya, CNS Correspondent, Uganda 
(First published in The Continent Observer, on 14 May 2014)
Asthma patients, in Uganda, are resorting to traditional herbs, to cut the high cost of treatment. Patients, interviewed, by The Continent Observer, say they prefer using traditional herbs, for treatment because of the high cost of treatment. Some patients, use herbs while others, have resorted to drinking donkey’s milk, as a remedy whenever they get asthma attacks.

Rebecca Kabuya is one such patient who uses traditional herbs for treatment whenever she gets attack. This is what she told me-- “I am a 22 year-old girl and a student in my final year at University, in Uganda. I have been battling with asthma since my childhood and I have used various medications whenever I get an attack. Having asthma, is a very big problem, because whenever it is cold like today, my chest gets congested and sometimes I end up fainting. Whenever I get the attack, my father has to rush me for treatment, and usually they have to inject me two times so that my condition can normalize.

I usually get the attacks if I am in a new environment that I am not used to or when it is too cold. Earlier I used to take Amophlene and Salbutamol for treatment, but these days I no longer use them because they are too costly and also have side effects. For now I have resorted to use donkey and camel milk as a remedy whenever I have an asthma attack. I also use traditional herbs, especially the ones which are being sold by Indians in Kampala.These traditional herbs are good because they are cheap and they do not have side effects which occurred so commonly with the drugs they used to inject me with.” Dr. Martin Okot, a lung health expert and President of Uganda Thoracic Society said that the treatment for asthma costs about US$15. He however declined to state whether the treatment is affordable for most Ugandans.

Asthma is a disease of the bronchial tubes (“the airways”) that typically presents with wheezing– a high-pitched whistling sound heard during breathing, especially when breathing out. Asthma can also involve shortness of breath or coughing, particularly in children. Asthma attacks can be triggered by factors, such as having a cold, exercising, or exposure to smoke. According to the 2011 Global Asthma Report published by The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the International Study of Asthma and Allergies, asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects 235 million people worldwide. The burden of asthma has been growing over the past 30 years, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. It not only affects millions of adults, but is the most common chronic disease among children too. Asthma is not curable, but it can be treated and managed with existing medicines.

The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are exposure, especially in infancy, to indoor allergens and a family history of asthma or allergy. Exposure to tobacco smoke and exposure to chemical irritants in the workplace are additional risk factors. Other risk factors include certain drugs (aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs), low birth weight and respiratory infection. The cold air, extreme emotional expression and physical exercise can exacerbate asthma.

Joseph Elunya, Citizen News Service -  CNS
(First published in The Continent Observer, on 14 May 2014)