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Alexandra Redpath of R.E.D.I Training explains

Asthma is a very common respiratory disease that affects over 5million people in the UK and is more common in women than men. It is a chronic disease that can start from infancy (although not common in under 1 year-olds) through to adulthood.

The true cause of asthma is unknown but a combination of genetics and the environment are triggers. If allergies or eczema runs in your family you can inherit a susceptibility to asthma that may get triggered by the environment.

Asthmatics have over-sensitive airways which become narrowed and inflamed when irritated. This inflammation makes it difficult to breathe. A severe onset of symptoms is known as an asthma attack,or 'acute asthma exacerbation'. Asthma attacks can be life-threatening and may require hospital treatment.

The severity of the symptoms of asthma differs from person to person, from mild to severe. The narrowing of the airways is usually reversible – occurring naturally, or through the use of medicines.

There is no cure for asthma but it can be easily controlled though medication, changes to lifestyle and avoiding known triggers.

What causes asthma?

We are surrounded by many irritants that can trigger asthma, such as smoking, pets or pollen.

Although it may not be possible to eliminate these irritants from our everyday environment, the asthma symptoms can be alleviated by reducing/removing allergens in your home or work place.

  • Dust Mites – are tiny bugs that live in materials/fabrics such as clothes and carpets. Use special dust-proof covers for your mattresses and pillows and wash your bed linen on a regular basis in a very hot wash.
  • Pets – the dried skin and hair of pets can cause asthma symptoms. Try and avoid pets and if you have one at home, do not allow them into your bedroom so that your sleeping environment is irritant free. 
  • Mould – remove any traces of mould off sink faucets, pipes, shower curtain. 
  • Pollen – keep windows closed and avoid going outside during the afternoon when the pollen count is normally at its highest.
  • Smoking – reduce your exposure to smoking in enclosed environments such as a car.  
  • Sprays – avoid strong odours or sprays.

Other types of asthma

Work-aggravated asthma is a pre-existing asthma that is made worse by dust and fumes at work.

Occupational asthma is due to exposure to specific substances at work. Often these substances are specific to certain occupations. For example, some nurses develop occupational asthma as a response to prolonged exposure to latex, and some workers in the food-processing industry develop occupational asthma as a response to prolonged exposure to flour.

Exercise-induced asthma is a pre-existing asthma brought on by physical exercise. However, for most people it is an indication of poorly controlled asthma.