World Asthma Day: Expert recommends tags for asthma patients

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria  
(First Published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in May 2014) 
Photo credit: CNS
A Pulmonologist, Dr Kingsley Osagie, said that wearing a tag with the inscription ‘I am an asthmatic’ by patients could help save their lives. Osagie, who works with the National Hospital Abuja, told this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in commemoration of the World Asthma Day 2014. World Asthma Day is celebrated globally every year on the first Tuesday of May to improve asthma awareness and care. This year's theme is ‘You can Control Your Asthma’.

Osagie said that, “For us, asthma is a chronic clinical condition that is characterised by chronic inflammation of the airway. Every asthma patient should have that tag because an asthma attack can occur at any time, and when it happens the patient may not be able to answer questions and someone might think it is a convulsion. But when you have a tag that says I am asthmatic, it could make the difference between life and death; between the time when the patient has a severe attack and getting medical help.”

He also advised persons living with asthma to have a ‘peak flow meter’ which is an instrument used to measure the degree of obstruction in the airway-- “Every person with asthma is advised to have a Peak Flow Meter to enable them to monitor the degree of obstruction and also the time and the severity of the attack. Any value below 50% is not good news, it is severe and it is time to go to the hospital. The awareness about asthma is still low. That is why we are using this opportunity of World Asthma Day to create that awareness.”

Osagie also advised patients to have an action plan with their doctors for their treatment and management. He said that risk factor such as genes, environmental and occupational factors contributed to developing or aggravating asthma. The doctor said some environmental factors include indoor pollution such as house dust mite, moulds, incense and out-door pollution such as cigarette smoke, fumes and dust. He added that low birth weight, dogs, cats and cockroaches had also been linked with developing or aggravating asthma.

Osagie noted that diagnosing asthma in children below the age of five years could be difficult as there are many symptoms that could be confused with asthma at that age. He, however, advised parents to seek medical help as soon as they notice that their children are having difficulty in breathing. “When your child is having cough, difficulty in breathing, find out from the doctor and ask that question: Is this asthma or not?”

“It is also important for the parent to establish which particular factor brings the attack--look at the environment. Does it have moulds? Are they using stove? Are they using fire wood?

Once you identify them, you try to avoid those factors. Apart from the parents, the school authorities must do something to ameliorate the suffering of students living with asthma.'' Osagie applauded the various states which had passed laws banning smoking in public places and urged them to implement the laws. He added that bush burning should also be controlled and the environment modified through effective town planning.

The expert said that inhalers used for relieving asthma, such as 'Ventolin', were still very effective but added that poor technique and adulterated drugs could limit the effectiveness. “A lot of people do not know how to use these inhalers; some people use one inhaler for three to  four years and that is very wrong,'' he said.

According to Dr Chen-Yuan Director, Department of Lung Health and NCDs, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, "Low affordability of essential asthma medicines is one of the main barriers in providing proper asthma care in low and middle income countries. However medicines are essential but not sufficient. Patients who present themselves to healthcare facilities may not be diagnosed and thos ewho are diagnosed may not be managed properly. So it is very important that healthcare providers be trained to provide standard case management of asthma."

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Citizen News Service - CNS
(First Published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in May 2014)