Did you know that Asthma is the one of the most common acute andchronic upper respiratorydisease in the world? The disease affects up to 18% of the world’s population. According to World Health Organization (WHO), approximately more than 339 million people had asthma globally which led to 417,918 deaths due at the global level in 2016.
According to The Allergy and Asthma Organization of Kenya, about 2000 Kenyans die from asthma every year. According to the data provided by Kenyatta National Hospital, about four million Kenyans could be living with asthma. With proper education and management, most of these deaths can be prevented.
As we celebrate World Asthma Day, this year’s theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions” This theme provides a call to action to address myths and misconceptions about asthma. We look at asthma among children and how to manage it.
In Kenya generally, asthma remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. Contrary to popular opinion, asthma is not infectious, and it is most prevalent in urban areas as compared to rural areas due to air pollution.
How fatal is asthma? For some, asthma is a minor irritation while for others it is a major problem that can lead to life-threatening asthma attacks. Asthma can occur at any age in life, and it is not a childhood disease as earlier thought. In Kenya, cases of Asthma in children are significant standing at 12.6% as compared to 6.2% in adults of the entire population.
According to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) Asthma is a heterogeneous disease characterized by chronic airwave inflammation.
There are varied signs and symptoms but the major ones include,
- Cough especially at night or early morning
- Shortness of Breath
- A feeling of chest tightness
Asthma in Children
Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases states that children are the most affected by asthma. The report says that from 1995 to 2001, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) showed an increase in the prevalence of current asthma symptoms in 13-14 year old children from 10.4% to 13.8% in Eldoret and17.1% to 18.0% in Nairobi
How can I tell if my child has asthma?
It can be difficult to identify if a childhas asthma or not especially if the child is below 5 years. This can be attributed to situations where symptoms like cough, chest tightness, wheezing or trouble breathing can occur in illnesses other than asthma. Medical experts advises parents to visit a doctor with their child if they notice asthma-like problems.
What causes an asthma attack in children?
Asthma triggers vary from one person to another and are also different in children. Nevertheless, doctors at Gertrude Children’s Hospital continue to advise that it is important to identify these triggers in your child and learn how to minimize exposure to them. Below are some of the common triggers they have identified:
- Weather changes: when it’s cold, very hot or very windy. Environmental temperatures are lowest at night or early in the morning.
- Infections like the common cold
- Strong smells or fragrances like perfumes, exhaust fumes, air fresheners
- Allergens like molds, cockroach droppings, furry pets, dust mites, pollen and grasses.
- Intense emotions like laughing and crying
- Some children will suffer symptoms when they run or play a lot.
- Smoke from cigarettes, burning wood or fuel
Diagnosis of asthma in children
As mentioned earlier, diagnosis in children below 5 years can be challenging. However, according to a report by the Ministry of Health titled Guidelines for Asthma Management in Kenya, this is because lung function testing is difficult. This, therefore, means that diagnosis has to rely on clinical suspicion, physical examination and trial of asthma treatment. Family history of asthma is also a major supportive method when diagnosing asthma in children.
How to manage asthma
According to the Guidelines for Asthma Management in Kenya by the Ministry of Health, there are various ways of managing asthma.
- Identification and avoidance of symptom trigger factors
- Assessing the severity of asthma, treat and monitor asthma control
- Proper and timely management of acute and severe asthma
- Continuous partnership between patient, the family and the health care provider from the onset
There’s no cure for asthma in children, but you can work with your child’s doctor to manage it and prevent damage to their growing lungs
One of the most common asthma medications is administered by inhaler devices which delivers the medication straight to the airways. There are tablets that are available for managing this disease. The medicine the doctor prescribes will depend on the child’s age and how frequent or severe the symptoms are. MYDAWA has a variety of inhalers that you can purchase online for home or office delivery within 4 hours of purchase. MYDAWA has alsofast tracked delivery of urgentPrescription Only Medication (POM)
In conclusion, a lot needs to be done to raise awareness of the disease. Sufficient information about asthma is important if parents and patients are to manage the disease effectively. There is a need to improve diagnosis through research and other medical interventions.1