6 tips to manage asthma during summer in the UAE

One in six people in the UAE suffer from asthma and as summer approaches, conditions worsen

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Image Credit: Istock
To avoid asthma attacks, doctors encourage asthma patients to carry their medicines at all times, even while travelling
Published: 07:00 May 10, 2016 

Neha Karamchandani, Special to Guides

Here are our top tips to manage your asthma during summer.

1. Avoid allergens like sand storms


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Stand storms carry dust and air pollutants, which can worsen symptoms of asthma. Minerals such as quartz can be found in the desert and it triggers inflammation. Fever and exposure to dust can also irritate the eyes and nose. To avoid these problems, stay indoors, wear a mask over your nose and mouth outdoors, and use petroleum jelly to moisten nostrils.

2. Clean your AC ducts before summer starts

A simple vacuuming of your vents isn’t enough. You need to get rid of any mold in your AC ducts well before the start of summer. If there is a lot of mold in your air ducts, then consider replacing all the duct materials instead of just cleaning.

3. Avoid petting animals


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Animal fur isn’t the only issue. People are allergic to the proteins found in animals such as animal dander (skin flakes), animal saliva and animal urine. All of these can trigger asthma.  Some people may also be allergic to birds.

4. Stay away from strong smells like perfumes


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Strong smells aren’t visible like dust mites, pollen or mold. They can simply trigger asthma or cause a headache. Some smells include perfume, deodorant, nail polish, paint fumes, cologne, after shave and air fresheners.

5. Avoid smoking inhalation and shisha


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Smoke can cause discomfort in the lung area, which can result in asthma. Those who don’t suffer from asthma can also experience irritation to the lining of the nasal pathways, throat and mouth. According to the WHO, shisha is much more harmful than cigarette smoking or pipe smoking. Second-hand shisha smoke can be even more risky to the body. The water inside the water pipe doesn’t filter the smoke, but it does soak up the nicotine.

6. Keep medicines with you at all the times

Doctors in the region advise asthma patients to follow their asthma action plan and to follow up with their doctors if they are unsure on how to use their medication. To avoid an asthma attack, health professionals encourage asthma patients to carry their medicines at all times and even while travelling.

 

Kara, Neha. “6 Tips to Manage Asthma during Summer in the UAE.” Gulfnews. Gulfnews, 10 May 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.


All asthma Patients should have an action plan

Having a written asthma action plan can significantly reduce the risk of a serious asthma attack, says Cambridge expert Dr Robin Gore.

His comments come following a stark warning from Asthma UK which is urging people with asthma to be vigilant in winter as data shows the number of people who die because of an asthma attack peaks in January and remains high in February and March.

Research from the Office for National Statistics highlights that asthma is the cause of proportionately more excess winter deaths than other conditions and respiratory diseases were the underlying cause of death in more than a third of all excess winter deaths in 2014/15.

It is thought that cold weather and viruses like cold and flu may be partly to blame with 90 per cent of people with asthma reporting that cold and flu viruses make their asthma worse and 75 per cent find that cold weather triggers an asthma attack.

Dr Gore, one of the asthma specialists at Addenbrooke’s, said they have known for a long time that viruses such as colds and flu were common triggers.

“These have a much greater effect on the lungs with people who have asthma than people who don’t,” he said. “They are the most common triggers of asthma attacks.

“Asthma is a condition where we don’t understand all the factors that cause it but most patients will have inflammation in the lungs for much of the year. When a virus affects the lungs it makes that inflammation worse. The tubes get smaller and more narrow which obstructs the air flow and makes it more difficult to breath.”

Given the recent increase in reported cases of flu, Asthma UK wants to ensure that everyone with asthma takes their medicines as prescribed, uses a written asthma action plan and knows what to do if their symptoms start to deteriorate.

Dr Gore said an action plan was really important and every patient should have one.

“Asthma attacks can seem to occur quite unpredictably so you need to know what to do if your symptoms are getting worse,” he said. “Having a written action plan is a set of instructions telling the patient what to do if their asthma deteriorates, how to call for help and what emergency action to take.

“Research shows patients who have a plan given to them by their nurse or GP cuts down hospital admissions by four times.

“Many patients with asthma don’t have an annual review with their GP, where these plans are developed and revised. Many patients don’t go or are not called up.”

Dr Gore said patients who use their reliever inhaler a lot was a sign they might need to see their GP about their asthma control.

“If a patient uses six of these reliever therapies in one year, they should make an appointment with their GP,” he added. “Many patients don’t use enough of their preventer inhaler
News, Cambridge. “All Asthma Patients Should Have an Action Plan.” Cambridge News. Cambridge News, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.


Improve your life with an asthma action plan

Approximately 9,000 people (12 per cent) living in Bermuda have asthma.

It is the number one reason children take medication whilst at school, and the number one reason they miss school. It’s also the leading reason adults miss days from work.

Respiratory disease is repeatedly one of the top causes of admission to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. People suffering from asthma were the most frequent visitors to the Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centre last year.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is strongly associated with smoking, factory work and mining. It is a smaller problem in Bermuda than elsewhere, as these factors are less common. Approximately one in seven adults (14 per cent) of people in Bermuda are smokers, according to the STEPS survey 2014.

In 2012 we started to collect COPD inpatient and outpatient statistics at KEMH. I am finding it is underreported and underdiagnosed — as it is around the world — but even after taking this into account we still have a lower percentage of people with COPD in comparison to most other countries.

Why are action plans important?

Education is very important for patients, carers and family members. Asthma and COPD affect the dynamics of a family as a whole, however the greater the education of the family, the more they can help and offer support. It is important that education strategies are also geared to enable patients to self-manage. In the past year alone, there were 1,888 asthma visits to the Emergency Department yet only a small percentage of these patients have come to get asthma education.

Every asthma visit to the Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centre is a failure of treatment. Healthcare professionals can empower their clients and help give them the tools they need to control their asthma by providing their patients with an asthma action plan!

American, British, Australian, Canadian and Global Initiative for Asthma guidelines suggest that all clients are offered self-management education, including a written, individualised asthma action plan.

The National Review of Asthma Deaths in May 2014 by the Royal College of Physicians in England showed that of the 195 asthma deaths from February 2012 until January 2013, less than a quarter (23 per cent), of those had ever been given an asthma action plan.

As a certified asthma/COPD educator I set up the Asthma Centre in KEMH in April 2000. The goal was to create a centre that works to improve the lives of people in Bermuda living with long-term lung conditions.

Today this education continues as part of Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Respiratory Endocrine and Metabolism Centre. Located at Fairview Court on the grounds of the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, I provide clients one-on-one asthma and COPD education. The service is covered by insurance. I work in close partnership with the Government Health Department, the Ministry of Education’s school asthma nurse and Bermuda’s asthma charity Open Airways.

Everybody who has asthma should have an action plan from their doctor. The physician gives advice specific to the patient providing the patient with a written agreement that helps them stay in control of their asthma. It includes specific daily asthma medications and what to do when the asthma gets worse, or if they have asthma attack.

An action plan can help reduce the number of visits to the Emergency Department and the doctor’s office, which in turn can improve quality of life and reduce the number of days that people have off work and school due to asthma. An action plan should be updated yearly by your doctor or asthma nurse for most adults, and more frequently if more severe.

Contact asthma.centre@bhb.bm or 239-1652 for more information or an appointment.

 

 

Barbosa, Debbie. “Improve Your Life with an Asthma Action Plan | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda Wellness.” The Royal Gazette. The Royal Gazette, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Using an Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan is a written series of steps and management techniques that should be used when a patient with asthma experiences worsening in symptoms of the condition.

The aim of an asthma action plan is to enable patients and caregivers to recognize early warning signs of an asthma attack and take the appropriate steps to improve control of the condition and minimize complications.

Child playing sport having an asthma attack

Image Copyright: Lopolo, Image ID: 249852262 via Shutterstock

What is an Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is a written, step-by-step guide to enable patients to maintain control of their asthma symptoms. It is usually made by the patient and health professional together and outlines what to do when:

  • Asthma is well controlled
  • There is a flare up of asthma symptoms
  • An asthma attack occurs

The plan will usually list any triggers, remind patient when to take which medication and stipulate how bystanders can help if an attack occurs.

Asthma Action Plan

Click here or the image to view an Asthma Action Plan from Asthma Action Plan from the US National Institutes of Health (PDF)

Benefits

Research has supported the benefits that a written asthma plan can offer when individuals are managing asthma in the home environment. It helps to:

  • Establish clear guidelines on when and how to act in response to certain changes and symptoms related to the condition.
  • Monitor changes and understand when the condition is well-controlled o pharmacological treatment alterations are needed.
  • Provide patients with the knowledge of when to act and seek emergency medical aid.

An asthma action plan assists in the communication between the healthcare practitioner and the patient, allowing relevant information to be clearly presented in a written and easy-to-follow format. It doesn’t take long to discuss and write up the action plan but the benefits of the plan are clear. In fact, individuals that have an action plan are four times less likely to require hospitalization to manage severe symptoms.

Daily Maintenance

The everyday section of the action plan should detail the regular medications and management techniques that should be employed to prevent symptoms as asthma.

This often includes the avoidance of asthma triggers, in addition to preventative medication to reduce inflammation of the airways. Reliever medication is also indicated when symptoms worsen for a short period of time.

Flare-Ups

Flare-ups of asthma symptoms are most likely to occur when individuals have been exposed to triggers of asthma or have recently been ill with a cold or influenza. These periods are marked by increased use of reliever medication or a reduction in peak expiratory flow (PEF) values at home, and should be considered as a warning sign to initiate treatment to prevent an attack.

The plan will differ according to the needs of each individual, but often involves a “step up” approach in medications or a short course of corticosteroids to manage inflammation

Emergency Action

An asthma plan plays an essential role to guide decision-making when in an emergency situation such as an asthma attack. It is marked by the significant worsening of symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness and wheezing.

The plan should be easily accessible for other members of the family to refer to and help in the management of the attack. In most cases, reliever medication should be administered, and an ambulance should be called if no improvement occurs.

Other Advice

It is important that the asthma action plan is reviewed and updated regularly, at least annually, to ensure the plan is suitable for the individual case.

Additionally, the action plan can only be utilized if the patient has it on hand when it is needed. If should be located in a place at home that allows people to see it and refer to it quickly when needed. It can also be useful to make several copies to be kept in other areas, such as in the car, at school and the sporting club.

References

Further Reading

 

Smith, Yolanda. “Using an Asthma Action Plan.” News-Medical.net. News-medical, 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Asthma does not have to be a sports-stopper for kids

You might remember a time when kids with asthma were discouraged from playing sports and told to take it easy. That’s no longer the case. Being active, working out and playing sports not only help kids with asthma stay fit, maintain a healthy weight and have fun, but also can strengthen their breathing muscles and help the lungs work better.

For these reasons, your doctor may recommend exercise as part of your child’s asthma treatment plan. If you have doubts about whether sports and asthma mix, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that asthma affects more than 20 percent of elite athletes and one in every six Olympic athletes.

Two important things that kids who have asthma should know about sports participation are their asthma must be under control in order for them to play sports properly and when it is well controlled, they can – and should – be active and play sports just like anyone else.

Of course, some sports are less likely than others to pose problems for people with asthma. Swimming, leisurely biking and walking are less likely to trigger asthma flare-ups, as are sports that require short bursts of activity like baseball, football, gymnastics and shorter track and field events.

Endurance sports, like long-distance running and cycling, and sports like soccer and basketball, which require extended energy output, may be more challenging. This is especially true for cold-weather sports like cross-country skiing or ice hockey. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t participate in these sports if they truly enjoy them. In fact, many athletes with asthma have found that, with proper training and medication, they can participate in any sport they choose.

To keep asthma under control, it’s important that kids take their medicine as prescribed.

Your child should carry quick-relief medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) at all times, even during workouts, in case of a flare-up.

It’s also a good idea to keep triggers in mind. Depending on their triggers, kids with asthma may want to skip outdoor workouts when pollen or mold counts are high, wear a scarf or ski mask when training outside during the winter, breathe through the nose instead of the mouth while exercising and make sure they always have time for a careful warm-up and cool-down.

These recommendations should be included in the asthma action plan you create with your child’s doctor.

Also, make sure that the coach knows about your child’s asthma and the asthma action plan. Most important, your child and the coach need to understand when it’s time for your child to take a break from a practice or game so that flare-ups can be managed before they become emergencies.

Source: “Tyler Morning Telegraph – Asthma Does Not Have to Be a Sports-stopper for Kids.” TylerPaper.com. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.


Make sure an asthma action plan is on your back-to-school checklist

For nearly 7 million children living with asthma, gearing up for another school year involves much more than picking out a new pencil case and backpack.

Asthma is one of the main reasons that students miss school due to illness. All told, asthma causes more than 10 million lost school days every year. Parents, schools and health care providers can all play an active role to ensure that children with asthma can be healthy, safe, and ready to learn.

The American Lung Association has several tools and resources not only for parents, but also for school nurses other school personnel. Help create a community of support for children with asthma by using and sharing these free educational tools and resources.

Asthma Basics is our free online course that offers an overview of asthma management that is helpful for teachers, coaches, school nurses and parents. In this self-paced learning module, participants learn about asthma triggers, symptoms, steps to prevent an asthma episode and the actions to take to respond to a breathing emergency. Participants get access to a number of resources including an asthma action plan and medication demonstration videos.

Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative is a comprehensive approach to asthma management that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coordinated School Health model. This step-by-step guide includes best practices and template policies to create a safe and healthy learning environment. Parents can work with schools to ensure that asthma-friendly policies and practices are in place giving students with asthma the best chance for a successful school year.

We recommend that schools provide access to back-up quick-relief medication for students with asthma. By improving access to life-saving medication during the school day, schools can prevent a medical emergency. Our Stock Bronchodilator Model Policy is available for school districts.

Surveys have shown that some school personnel believe that elementary-aged children are not developmentally ready to carry their own asthma medication, in spite of research to the contrary. Through the Student Readiness Assessment Tool, we can empower students and increase confidence in their school nurses that students are able to self-carry their quick-relief inhalers during the school day and prevent emergencies.

The American Lung Association is committed to providing up-to-date information and resources to help keep children with asthma active and healthy. Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy school year.

Source:


Make sure an asthma action plan is on your back-to-school checklist

For nearly 7 million children living with asthma, gearing up for another school year involves much more than picking out a new pencil case and backpack.

Asthma is one of the main reasons that students miss school due to illness. All told, asthma causes more than 10 million lost school days every year. Parents, schools and health care providers can all play an active role to ensure that children with asthma can be healthy, safe, and ready to learn.

The American Lung Association has several tools and resources not only for parents, but also for school nurses other school personnel. Help create a community of support for children with asthma by using and sharing these free educational tools and resources.

Asthma Basics is our free online course that offers an overview of asthma management that is helpful for teachers, coaches, school nurses and parents. In this self-paced learning module, participants learn about asthma triggers, symptoms, steps to prevent an asthma episode and the actions to take to respond to a breathing emergency. Participants get access to a number of resources including an asthma action plan and medication demonstration videos.

Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative is a comprehensive approach to asthma management that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coordinated School Health model. This step-by-step guide includes best practices and template policies to create a safe and healthy learning environment. Parents can work with schools to ensure that asthma-friendly policies and practices are in place giving students with asthma the best chance for a successful school year.

We recommend that schools provide access to back-up quick-relief medication for students with asthma. By improving access to life-saving medication during the school day, schools can prevent a medical emergency. Our Stock Bronchodilator Model Policy is available for school districts.

Surveys have shown that some school personnel believe that elementary-aged children are not developmentally ready to carry their own asthma medication, in spite of research to the contrary. Through the Student Readiness Assessment Tool, we can empower students and increase confidence in their school nurses that students are able to self-carry their quick-relief inhalers during the school day and prevent emergencies.

The American Lung Association is committed to providing up-to-date information and resources to help keep children with asthma active and healthy. Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy school year.

Source: “Make Sure an Asthma Action Plan Is on Your Back-to-school Checklist.” Houston Herald. N.p., 05 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 Aug. 2015.


Taking care of asthma: How to spot an attack and how to help

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma — about one in every 12 people. Of those, roughly 7 million are children.

The number of those affected by the disease increases every year, resulting in significant health care expenses. In 2007, asthma cost the U.S. about $56 billion in medical costs, issued school and work days, and early deaths.

 As we spend more of our free time outdoors in the summer months, asthma can be particularly troublesome. As the air gets hotter and more humid, allergens increase.

Whether you or someone you know suffers from asthma, Danville Regional Medical Center wants to make sure you are prepared to fight asthma this summer.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflamed airways that cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Asthma attacks occur when certain irritants get into the lungs and cause muscles to tighten around already-inflamed airways. Extra mucous is often produced, which further restricts one’s airways during an attack.

Once diagnosed, asthma is often manageable if patients know what causes their attacks and try to avoid those triggers. However, asthma can limit what some patients can and cannot do.

How to prevent asthma attacks One way to prevent an asthma attack is to avoid triggers. Air pollution, smoke, allergens and mold are all common irritants that may cause an asthma attack. Patients should also diligently take any prescribed medications, develop a safe physical activity plan with their doctor and keep track of their symptoms.

How to recognize an attack If a child at camp starts wheezing while playing outside, how do you know if he or she is simply winded or really suffering from an asthma attack?

While the main signs are coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness, these symptoms could also be the result of a cold, allergies or overexertion. For this reason, it is crucial that asthma sufferers always inform supervisors, colleagues or care providers of the disease so that proper care can be administered if an attack occurs.

What to do when an attack hits Administer the quick-relief medicine, typically an inhaler, and follow the patient’s Asthma Action Plan, a management plan developed by the patient and his or her health care provider. Parents should give any person that provides care to his or her child a copy of his or her Asthma Action Plan. This includes babysitters, sports coaches, school personnel, daycare providers, camp counselors, or anyone else who maybe responsible for your child. If an attack happens, they will need to know how to respond. Adult sufferers should also give their Asthma Action Plan to someone who can assist during an attack, such as a co-worker or exercise partner.

Source: “Taking Care of Asthma: How to Spot an Attack and How to Help.”GoDanRiver.com. N.p., 02 Aug. 2015. Web. 02 Aug. 2015.


Add Asthma, Allergy Plans to Your Back-to-School List

If your child has asthma or allergies, make sure his or her teacher, principal and school nurse know about it as part of your back-to-school planning, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) recommends.

“More than 10 million kids under age 18 have asthma, and one in four suffer from respiratory allergies,” ACAAI President Dr. James Sublett said in a news release from the organization.

“Many kids with asthma and food allergies don’t have a plan in place at school. An allergy or asthma action plan doesn’t do any good if it’s not shared with the people who can act on it,” he noted.

The first step is to have allergy/asthma control measures at home, such as lowering exposure to triggers and taking prescribed medications. At school, it’s important for teachers to know your child’s asthma and allergy triggers so that they can help the youngster avoid them in the classroom.

Parents should talk to principals and school nurses about how to handle allergy/asthma emergencies. All 50 states have laws that protect students’ rights to carry and use medicines for asthma and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) at school.

Children at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions from certain foods or insect stings should carry epinephrine auto-injectors and have them available for immediate use, the ACAAI said.

Children with asthma and allergies should be able to take part in any school sport as long as they follow their doctor’s advice. Parents should ensure their child’s gym teacher and coaches know what to do in case of an asthma emergency.

Many children with food allergies are able to identify what they can and can’t eat, but it’s helpful if other parents and your child’s friends know, too. Some schools have policies restricting treats for special occasions. If your child’s school does not, be sure to tell other parents and children what types of foods your child must avoid.

Source: “Add Asthma, Allergy Plans to Your Back-to-School List.” Consumer HealthDay. N.p., 01 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Aug. 2015.


Five summer tips to prevent asthma attacks

Summer break in Minnesota is a great time for children to recharge and play outdoors. But it is definitely not a good time to take a break from asthma medications and asthmamanagement.

Children who reduce or stop taking their asthma medications during the summer months are at a greater risk of serious asthma symptoms in the fall.

Even if children aren’t having symptoms, summer vacation doesn’t apply to asthma medications says Dr. Deborah McWilliams, pediatrician and chair of the Division of Community Pediatrics with Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“It’s very important that people who have asthma continue to take all their asthma medications as prescribed over the summer, even if they don’t have symptoms,” McWilliams said.

“It’s the best way to prevent asthma symptoms from starting and curbing a possible asthma attack.”

Asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits tend to spike in the fall, possibly due to viral respiratory infections and exposure to fall pollen and outdoor mold.

Children heading back to school also have closer personal contact with many more children, which increases their exposure to infections that can trigger an asthma attack.

Because of this trend, summer is a crucial time for parents to start gearing up for fall by scheduling an asthma ‘check-up’ with a health care provider.

Follow these five tips to have a healthy summer and start of school:

Take your asthma medications everyday – Children who reduce or stop taking their asthma medications during the summer months are at greater risk of serious asthma symptoms in the fall.

Schedule an asthma check-up – Summer is a good time to get ready for fall. Schedule an asthma check-up now with your health care provider for you or your child. It’s especially important for children to see their health care provider before school starts to adjust asthma medications, check your inhaler technique, and get an updated written asthma action plan (AAP) to have at home and give a copy to the school nurse. Talk with your health care provider about your asthma action plan and how to manage asthma on a daily basis before your child heads back to school.

Know and avoid your asthma triggers – Each person’s asthma responds to different triggers. Triggers such as colds (viruses), tobacco smoke, pollen, outdoor air pollution, wood smoke, mold, dander from animals and even cold air can irritate your airways and lead to an asthma attack. Sports and other outdoor activities can make asthma flare up. Work with your health care provider to create a written asthma action plan that lists your asthma triggers, medications and what to do to keep your asthma well controlled throughout the year.

Play with asthma – Be smart when you exercise. Carry your rescue inhaler with you during runs, workouts and team practices. Avoid exercising outdoors on days that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issues an Air Quality Alert. Exercising is good for people who have asthma, but it pays to play it safe.

Pack smart for camp and family travel – If your child is going to camp (day or overnight), tell them about your child’s asthma, their triggers, and give them a copy of the AAP along with any asthma medications. If you’re travelling across country or just for an overnight, make sure all asthma medications are packed, inhalers are full (check the expiration date) and that they’ll last the length of the trip.

Source: “Five Summer Tips to Prevent Asthma Attacks.” KVLY RSS. N.p., 30 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.