The chest constricts, breathing becomes difficult: a familiar feeling for asthmatics. As early as 1998, the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) launched World Asthma Day to inform people about this chronic lung disease.
In Germany alone, about eight million people are affected, and worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 235 million people are affected – but with the right therapy, the disease can be treated well. Bronchial asthma, usually just called asthma, is divided into two forms: Allergic and non-allergic asthma.
Every year, GINA wants to raise awareness of the disease and dispel prejudices with World Asthma Day.
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Allergic asthma is usually triggered by harmless substances such as pollen or animal hair. This form of asthma often develops in childhood or adolescence. Non-allergic asthma is caused by infections of the airways – 80% of adults have this form of asthma.
Why is it so hard for people to breathe when they have an attack? In asthma, the body basically behaves like any other inflammation: the inflamed tissue areas get more blood flow. In the lungs, this causes the mucous membranes in the bronchial walls to swell and produce more mucus. In addition, the bronchial tubes become tense. This reduces the diameter of the airways and makes it difficult to breathe – which explains typical symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight feeling in the chest. Medication with anti-inflammatory (preventive) or bronchodilator (symptomatic) agents can help.
In order for a therapy to be successful and to avoid life-threatening attacks, the right asthma management is also important. Special training courses are helpful here, because those who suffer from asthma first have to get a feeling for their own disease. In addition to such training, an asthma diary and emergency plan are also helpful to get an overview of the disease and to be better prepared in case of an emergency. Relaxation and breathing exercises can also be learned and help.
The good news is that asthma is not necessarily associated with an increased risk of developing COVID-19. People who are well controlled with their asthma medication, who regularly inhale and thus relieve the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the lower respiratory tract, do not have an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.
Activities to mark World Asthma Day cannot take place due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, GINA wants to debunk myths about asthma and asked affected people to address and correct misconceptions about asthma prevalent in their region in short videos. The results will be posted on social media.
Non-asthmatics who want to feel what an asthma attack feels like should hold their nose and inhale only through a straw. This artificially narrows the airways, only a fraction of the air enters the lungs when inhaling and exhaling is much more difficult.