It's Never Just Asthma

May 2, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn - Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

World asthma day is May 3, 2022.

We have had an interesting Spring to say the least and while it has been affecting our moods and maybe even sanity, it has also had an impact on our breathing. When the snow leaves "snow molds" can create a whole list of problems for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. With trees, plants, grass, and flowers finally set to start growing, asthmatics may once again be an increased risk of exacerbation.

World Asthma Day was on May 3. It is a day of unity for the asthma community with a focus on raising awareness about the significant impact asthma has in Canada and around the world. It is an opportunity for Canadians with asthma and health care providers to raise our voices and increase awareness by sharing information with others. This is important as Asthma is one of the most common and costly diseases in Canada. While today is important, everyday 317 Canadians are diagnosed with Asthma. More than three million Canadians are living with asthma or over 10 percent of our population. Science Direct provided data showing from 2014 that 20 years of Asthma to 2033 will cost between $213 billion and $280 billion.

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease causing inflammation and swelling of the airways. The resulting narrowing of the airways which carry air from the nose and mouth to the lungs can trigger some troubling symptoms. They include trouble breathing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, wheezing, and coughing. As mentioned, asthma can be triggered by a variety of things and the triggers can be different for everyone. Allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen are common. Chemicals like cleaning products and cosmetic products may be at fault. Certain foods and exercise can also trigger an asthma episode.

Sometimes asthma is taken a little too lightly. Severe asthma affects up to 250 000 Canadians, with up to 70 000 hospitalizations per year. An estimated 250 Canadians lose their lives to asthma each year. That means 4 to 5 Canadian families lose a loved one to asthma each week. With proper asthma education, many of these deaths can be prevented.

There is no cure for asthma, however proper treatment can prevent attacks and provide great quality of life. The key is proper treatment. The theme of World Asthma Day in 2022 is to highlight current gaps in care, because while treating asthma properly is not a difficult concept it is often not followed through. First all asthmatics need access to education about their disease. I recommend starting with www.asthma .ca or speaking to your pharmacist. Secondly there must be proper prescribing of medications and teaching from a health care professional, so medication is used properly. Next, adherence or sticking to the asthma treatment plan is crucial.

Controller medications for asthma are taken daily on a long-term basis to keep asthma under control, mainly through their anti-inflammatory effects. While the dose may change, such as increasing it during allergy season or flu season, they are taken regularly. These medications are usually inhaled through a puffer or inhaler but can also be taken in pill form.

Rescue or reliever inhalers are medications used on an as-needed basis that act quickly to reduce asthma symptoms. They can also be used before vigorous exercise to prevent shortness of breath. If you find yourself refilling your rescue inhaler on a regular basis, it is likely to need to start using your controller medication more often.

Pharmacists see a high proportion of asthmatics only treating their symptoms and not using the preventative inhalers to stop symptoms before they even start. The two main reasons for this are lack of education and that preventative medications are much more expensive. Your pharmacist can recommend generic options for inhalers, help with coverage, and explain how to optimally use your inhalers.

We need to work at highlighting asthma is a chronic disease that requires teaching, planning and long-term use of medication to prevent symptoms. This will save health resources, improve health, and save lives. This can all start by talking to your clinic pharmacist. Remember it is never just asthma.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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