Living with a chronic illness such as asthma can be difficult and challenging. Making it one's strength and not weakness lies in one's own hands. Some healthy lifestyle changes can help coping with asthma easier. Identifying what triggers an episode of asthma in an individual and preventing such triggering factors could have kept the disease well in control.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways that is detected by sudden episodes of breathlessness, incessant coughing and wheezing. Various types of triggering factors could have been responsible for an episode of asthma such as: –

v Genetic cause

v Respiratory tract infections (bacterial / viral)

v Family history of asthma

v Exposure to air-borne allergens such as pollens, dust, insects & mites, pet fur and irritants such as tobacco smoke

v Other factors like breastfeeding feeding and fat consumption could also be responsible

v Stress, anxiety and exercise could be triggering factors

An interesting theory proposed towards the epidemiological factors related to asthma is the “hygienic hypothesis”. This states that naturally occurring microbial exposures in early life may have prompted early immune maturation and prevented allergic diseases and asthma from developing. Subsequently, children raised in modern metropolitan life styles, reliably devoid of this natural microbial burden, may have under-stimulated immune systems in infancy, thereby allowing for the 'allergic march'- a pattern of pro-allergic immune development and disorders that occurs in early life. This has been proposed to be the cause of increasing trends of asthma in modern cosmopolitan environment and lifestyle.

What Lifestyle changes can be of help?

The new proposition causes and epidemiological factors have opened up new avenues of thought towards the prevention of asthma.

v Identifying possible allergens and avoiding them is the best way to keep a check on asthma. Pollens, molds, dust mites and pet dander should be avoided. The major cat allergen Fel d 1 has been seen to be carried by small-dimension particles (<5 micron diameter) that may become airborne and persist unmodified for a long time. Often contaminated clothes have been seen to be potent carriers of this allergen. Thus washing of contaminated clothes could be a simple and effective way to control asthma due to cat dander.

v Cockroach allergens institute another important cause of environment-related respiratory allergy and may trigger asthma exacerbations in sensitized individuals. In the prevention of cockroach allergy, the use of chemical agents associated with an intensive vacuum cleaning of indoor environments is an important tool in removing cockroach material containing allergenic proteins.

v A proper temperature maintenance and good ventilated indoors can be of help to asthma sufferers. Usually a temp of 68-72 deg F is suggested.

v Recent studies have shown that dietary sodium could be a constituent which may be implicated in this phenomenon behind asthma. Adoption of a low sodium diet for a period of 2-5 weeks has shown improvements in lung function and reduced bronchial reactivity in adults with asthma, while sodium loading appeared to have a detrimental effect.

v Avoiding smoking- both active as well as passive could be helpful

v Wearing a mask while outside can help prevent exposure to dust and smoke.

v A mold inhibitor could have been added to paint used on walls especially in washrooms which are more prone to dampness

v Knowledge of correct administration of medications like inhalers contributes to asthma prevention. One must visit his doctor regularly for check-ups.

v Correctly planned physical activity can improve both physical as well as emotional health in asthma patients

v Talking to family members and people with the same illness could be mentally relaxing

v Other mental relaxation techniques like meditation can be of help to cut down the stress and anxiety behind asthma.

A chronic illness like asthma can never be cured. Its “prevention” is its only “cure”. Living with an illness could be disappointing and frustrating. Some healthy changes in lifestyle could have been a boon in all regards. Do not let asthma win over you ….. with small differences in the way you live …. you can be a winner too!