Asthma is a far-reaching condition that affects many people’s breathing ability. Patients typically use inhalers to treat their symptoms. Unfortunately, only 6% of patients know how to use an inhaler to its fullest potential. As a result, only half of all asthma inhaler users manage their symptoms. However, with smart inhalers being developed there may be a solution.
What is Asthma?
One with asthma may experience coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. These symptoms are due to the swelling of the airways. It causes the airways to partially close, lessening one’s breathing ability. Asthma experiencers may endure chest pain, an increase in coughing and other symptoms when having a cold or when exercising.
Different circumstances may worsen asthma. Asthma subcategories include allergy-induced asthma, exercise-induced asthma and occupational asthma. Allergy-induced asthma causes asthma symptoms to increase when the patient is near allergens, such as pollen or animal dander. Exercise-induced asthma worsens asthma when doing physical labor because the patient is already breathing heavily. In addition, occupational asthma produces asthma symptoms when working in a place with chemicals or gases.
Asthma and Poverty
Poverty can play a substantial role in asthma and asthma relief. Managing asthma can be difficult when a family doesn’t have enough money to pay for doctor appointments or inhalers. Additionally, families struggling with money may not have a car or be able to attend doctor appointments to get diagnosed or proper treatment. Studies have shown that poverty relates closely with asthma in cities. For example, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania comes in at number four on the overall asthma national capital ranking and number three on the poverty ranking in the United States.
Asthma kills many more people in underprivileged societies than in prosperous areas. A lack of medicine is a large contributor to the deaths involving a manageable condition. Limited treatment, medical knowledge and a high cost of medicine all contribute to the fatalities caused by asthma. Moreover, there is minimal research done on the ways that asthma affects the poor versus the affluent. For instance, due to the varying studies, the rate of the seriousness of the problem in developing countries can range anywhere from 3% to 30%.
There are a couple of ways to treat asthma, but nothing makes the condition disappear. Patients struggling with asthma may find it helpful to take allergy medication, as asthma is known to worsen with allergies. Others may find it useful to treat the condition with long or short-term solutions. Long-term medications would include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers or theophylline. These medications are pills or inhalers that work to relieve asthma symptoms on a day to day basis. Medicine that relieves symptoms as quickly as possible would include some beta-agonists, anticholinergic drugs and oral corticosteroids.
In the UK, proper treatment could have saved 66% of asthma patients’ lives. The hope for smart inhalers is that it will be able to provide better care than the typical inhaler. A notification may inform patients of conditions such as allergens or chemicals in the air that may worsen their symptoms. The smart inhaler could also alert a patient if they are using short-term medication too much. Excess usage of quick-relief medication would demonstrate that the patient needs a new treatment plan or to see a doctor because the medication is not relieving the symptoms.
Smart inhalers could potentially allow patients to understand and correct their faults with the usage of their inhalers. Hopefully, this would allow patients to have better control over their asthma. For impoverished communities, the smart inhaler would be able to alert the asthma patient when their condition is advancing and when to see a doctor. The patient likely would not avoid going to the doctor if the inhaler notified them that their breathing was putting them in danger. This has the capabilities of preventing many deaths in developing countries. Smart inhalers would need to be made cheap and accessible to poorer countries for it to be a promising solution. However, it may be a good start in the bettering of treatment for this disease and an improvement in the world’s fight with asthma.
– Hailee Shores