Ask the health expert: Is asthma curable?

Ask the health expert: Is asthma curable?
PHOTO: The Straits Times

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Q: Is asthma curable? My son who is 27-years-old has not had asthma for quite some time although he had it previously, but his condition is not serious. It only occasionally flares up. If asthma does not flare up in 6 months, does that mean he won't get asthma anymore?

A: Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition marked by inflamed airways during an attack. This narrows the passage for air to pass through from the nose and mouth to the lungs, which makes breathing difficult.

Asthma attacks can occur suddenly with no warning. As such, sufferers need to keep acute medications - treatments taken at the onset of an attack - in case of such emergencies.

Asthma goes into remission in some children around puberty, but it often comes back. Sometimes, it returns when young adults start drinking alcohol. It is important to continue taking maintenance medications until your doctor tells you otherwise.

Graphic: The New Paper

Every asthmatic person has different triggers that would worsen their asthma symptoms or bring on an attack.

It would be ideal to identify the specific triggers and avoid them. Common triggers include dust, pollen, mould, smoking, air pollutants, allergic reaction to animal fur, and even stress.

The majority of asthmatic patients can lead an active lifestyle. Much of asthma treatment is grounded on prevention. With proper management and compliance to treatment, asthma can be well controlled, allowing those with the condition to lead a quality life.

Managing asthma

1. Develop an asthma action plan

An asthma action plan is a personalised set of instructions that your doctor or asthma nurse provides you to help you control your asthma. This customised action plan would also have instructions on:

- What to do if asthma symptoms worsen

- When to see your doctor about your asthma

- How to identify an asthma emergency and what to do (call 995)

Photo: The Straits Times

2. Keep necessary medications on-hand

It is important to remember to keep your rescue inhalers with you at all times as attacks can occur suddenly. Severe asthma attacks can cause oxygen levels to drop and even your heart to stop beating. In worst cases, it may even lead to deaths.

3. Learn how to use your medications properly

Practice using your inhaler with your doctor or asthma nurse. Learn the proper techniques in using your medications.

4. Have regular asthma checkups

Regular maintenance of the condition is necessary to ensure attacks do not happen. This includes seeing the doctor for treatment and taking maintenance medications to control the disease.

Dr Aza Taha, Associate Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Changi General Hospital

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