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Asthma

Currently 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 6 children have asthma and it is a major reason for GP visits and cause of hospitalisation, especially in children.

Although asthma cannot be prevented or cured it can be managed, thereby avoiding hospitalisation. Management begins with understanding the disease and its triggers.

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways complicated by increased mucous production and bronchoconstriction (spasm of the muscles in the airways).
Symptoms can include wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest and cough, often worse at night or early in the morning.
More often than not, the cause cannot be pinpointed but triggers can include exercise, irritants, allergens and viral infections.

Asthma Management

Diagnosed asthmatics may be on at least one or two medications and in severe cases up to five or more. Asthma management is dependant on the following:

Use of a reliever (bronchodilator) - Relievers are used only when necessary to provide immediate relief by relaxing the airways to allow easier breathing. Effect usually lasts 4 to 6 hours
Preventer (anti-inflammatory) - Preventers reduce inflammation and swelling of the airways and mucous production. The optimal effect is not immediate and usually takes weeks to achieve. Taken regularly on a daily basis they prevent worsening of the symptoms. They should not be stopped unless otherwise advised by a GP
Symptom controller (long acting beta agonist) - Symptom controllers are somewhere between preventers and relievers as they provide relief of symptoms not immediately but for extended periods, up to 12 hours
Asthma Action Plan – A written plan to assist in asthma management, which includes how to recognise when symptoms are worsening, what treatment to begin and when to seek medical assistance.

Tips for optimal health

1.    Ensure you have sufficient medication on hand at all times even when feeling well

2.   Maintain all apparatus by cleaning regularly such as nebulisers, spacers and         puffers.

3.    Ensure your prescriptions are in date and that you have sufficient repeats until you        see your doctor again

4.    Ask your pharmacist or GP to teach you how to use your medications correctly

5.    Use a spacer when unable to use puffers correctly

6.    Avoid any known triggers that aggravate your asthma

7.     Learn how to recognise when symptoms are worsening and have an Asthma Action         Plan from your GP for management of sick days

8.    See your GP if you are using your relievers more than normal

9.    Speak to your GP about having the flu vaccine every year

10. Ask your pharmacist for advice when using pain relievers such as aspirin or        ibuprofen as these may worsen asthma symptoms in those who are susceptible.

Myth: Asthmatics should not play sports

Fact: Asthmatics are able to play various sports. If the asthma is under control, then physical activity should not be a problem. In fact, keeping active can actually help the condition, but always seek advice from your GP before undertaking any activity.

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