Battling Asthma With Smart InhalersAsthma 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%.

Asthma Relief

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.

Smart Inhalers

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

Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Asthma
When people think of asthma, the first thought is usually a minor annoyance at worst. It is far more crippling in lower-income countries, however, than it is in regions with widespread access to health care facilities. The fight against asthma may be a tough conflict, but there are plenty of allies working to make asthma a manageable disease.

Asthma: The Facts

Asthma is a widespread disease, however, there are still common misconceptions about how it functions, perpetuating the fight against asthma.

  • Asthma is a respiratory disease that people commonly associate with fits of breathlessness and coughing. The intensity and frequency are different from individual to individual.
  • When an asthma attack occurs, the bronchial tubes swell, restricting airflow to and from the lungs. These recurring attacks can cause truancy, fatigue and decreased activity levels.
  • Approximately 235 million people have asthma across the world.
  • Asthma has been on the rise the past few decades, with industrialized nations suffering the brunt of it.
  • There is a multitude of risk factors when it comes to asthma. These risk factors include genetic predisposition, obesity, living in an urban environment and lack of exposure to infections during childhood (the hygiene hypothesis).
  • Triggers for asthma are numerous and they include but are not limited to smoke, air pollution, pet dander and even extreme emotional duress (fear, anger, etc.).

While asthma may not be curable, it is not nearly as fatal as other respiratory diseases like COPD. With proper medication and avoidance of certain triggers, it is possible to live a normal, fulfilling life with asthma.

Asthma, Children and Poverty

Asthma is a disease that occurs predominantly in children, with 10 to 20 percent of children aged 13 to 14 in sub-Saharan Africa exhibiting asthmatic symptoms. Asthma has become far more prominent in lower to middle-income countries; suggestions state that this is due to increasing amounts of children living in urban environments.

A study that Addo-Yobo et al conducted in 1993 showed that children in urban rich schools within Ghana had exercise-induced bronchospasms (EIB) at a percentage of 4.2 percent. This is rather high as urban poor and rural schools had an EIB percentage of 1.4 and 2.2 percentages respectively.

Another study that Odhiambo et al conducted in remote and urban Kenya found that rural children had lower rates of asthma (3.0 percent) while their urban counterparts had far higher rates (9.5 percent). The factors influencing asthma formation in children are extremely varied; while location certainly plays a role in asthma formation, so too does socioeconomic status and lifestyle choices.

Global Alliance Against Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Thankfully, there are groups working around the clock to spread medication and asthma awareness. One such group is the Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD). GARD has recently enacted its Practical Approach to Lung Health in high-HIV prevalence countries (PALSA Plus) in South Africa to help combat asthma and other respiratory diseases. PALSA Plus works by ensuring primary care nurses have proper access to the corticosteroids that asthma sufferers need to manage their attacks while also giving guidelines for the treatment of high-priority respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis.

With the help of GARD and its PALSA Plus plan, the fight against asthma has never looked so promising. Asthma may be a debilitating disease, but with proper care, knowledge and support, anyone suffering from this disease can live a long, rich and prosperous life.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr