Fortis’ Dr Vikas Maurya Answers Most Asked Questions About Asthma
This World Asthma Day, we’re in conversation with Dr Vikas Maurya, Head of Department (Respiratory Medicine & Interventional Pulmonology) at Fortis hospital, Delhi. From preventive measures and busting myths to helping children who suffer from asthma, he tells you everything you need to know.
World Asthma Day 2019
Ever since 1998, the first Tuesday of May is annually observed as World Asthma Day. This year, the theme is ‘STOP for Asthma’.
S: Symptom Evaluation
T: Test Response
O: Observe and Assess
P: Proceed to Adjust Treatment
Organised by Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the event is supported by health and medical practitioners around the world. It aims to raise awareness about the condition and focus on remedial advancements.
Is Asthma curable?
Dr Maurya: “No, it is not curable; however, it is treatable and can be managed better. Asthma is a condition in which there is a narrowing of airways due to internal swelling. This is often accompanied by increased production of mucus in the airways. Together, they make breathing difficult and trigger fits of cough, a whistling sound from the chest (wheezing), and shortness of breath. Asthma can interfere with daily activities and in the case of an attack, can be life-threatening. That’s why managing the condition the right way is important.”
What are some triggers an asthmatic patient should be cautious about?
Dr Maurya: “Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger an allergy or allergies can make signs and symptoms of asthma surface. The effect of these triggers may vary from person to person. Someone suffering from asthma should be cautious about:
- Airborne substances such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or particles of cockroach waste
- Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
- Cold air
- Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
- Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)
- Strong emotions and stress
- Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat”
In the absence of an inhaler, what can an asthmatic patient do to help themselves?
Dr Maurya: “If a person has an asthma attack and there is no rescue medication available (such as an inhaler), then do the following things to manage the condition until medical assistance arrives:
- Don’t panic, try to stay calm.
- Sit and stay upright. This will decrease the constriction of airways.
- Take slow and long deep breaths.
- Get away from trigger(s), if any.
- Loosen your clothes.
- Ask somebody to sit with you and get a coffee or black tea if possible.
- Call an ambulance (they have equipment to give you a steady flow of oxygen) and get to a doctor as soon as possible.”
How can one prepare their asthmatic child better?
Dr Maurya: “Here are some necessary steps every parent of a child suffering from asthma should take:
- Consult a doctor and get an asthma action plan in place for the child.
- Share this plan with the school and with any other authorities the child interacts with (baby sitter, tuition teachers, play school monitors, school principal, staff and teachers, gym teachers).
- It is important to identify and control asthma triggers, so get your child in the habit of communicating with an elder at the slightest sign of discomfort.
- Always pack in regular long-term asthma control medications and rescue medications along with a slip that indicates dosage in the child’s backpack.
- Teach your child breathing techniques like slow, deep breathing in an upright position.
- The child should also practice pranayama.
- Write emergency numbers and declare asthma on the identity card of the child, if possible. This will help during asthma attacks. Also, a parent’s and emergency contact numbers should be with the child all the time.”
What’s an ideal asthmatic diet?
Dr Maurya: “Your diet can certainly impact your asthma. It is better to avoid cold and sour food and drinks, as they lower the local throat immunity and may results in viral infections leading to worsening of asthma.
Also, an asthmatic gradually comes to know what food should not be taken. For example, peanut allergy is common in western countries and can lead to asthma attacks. Lastly. sulphites and preservatives added to certain foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine can also result in asthma attacks.
Are there any natural remedies for asthma?
Dr Maurya: “Yes, the treatments range from breathing exercises and yoga postures to herbal remedies. However, a lack of well-designed clinical trials makes it difficult to determine the safety and effectiveness of these therapies. The various treatments tried are acupuncture, breathing exercises including yoga (pranayama), anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin-D, herbal medicine, massage, and relaxation techniques.
More well-designed studies are needed before researchers can make a clear judgment about which complementary and alternative asthma therapies are likely to help. It is important to talk to your doctor before trying any complementary or alternative asthma treatments, and don’t stop prescribed medications or other medical treatment.”