#TheLungLetters

This campaign has been organised and funded by the healthcare company Chiesi Ltd.

For further information and advice on asthma please contact your doctor or asthma nurse.

ASTHMA AWARENESS


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a health condition that affects the airways– the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.1

Asthma sufferers usually encounter symptoms like coughing and wheezing and may also suffer from breathlessness.1

Asthma symptoms and even asthma attacks may be brought on by specific asthma ‘triggers’, which vary by asthma sufferer.1

Asthma sufferers’ airways are considered to be more ‘sensitive’. As a result of this increased sensitivity, the airways may experience a reaction when met with an irritant, this is known as a ‘trigger’.1

When faced with an asthma trigger, asthma sufferers may experience the following reactions:1

  • Tightened muscles around airways’ walls, which in turn narrows the airways themselves
  • Inflammation of airways lining
  • Build-up of phlegm and mucus, causing airways to narrow

One or more of these reactions can lead to difficulties such as chest tightness, coughing and wheezing, and in some cases even lead to an asthma attack.1

Asthma, the stats

Every day three people in the UK die from an asthma attack, but two-thirds of these could be prevented.1
The number of asthma deaths rose more than 33% between 2008-2018.2
Approximately 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma3, but that doesn’t mean the disease should define them.

What causes Asthma?

A cause is the underlying reason why someone suffers from asthma. A trigger is the thing that can set off asthma symptoms; or make them worse. Common causes of asthma include:4

Allergies:

Conditions such as eczema, hay fever or other allergies can cause asthma; resulting in the sufferer having ‘sensitive’ airways.4

Smoking:

Smoking can cause damage to the lungs which in turn plays a role in the onset of asthma in adults. Smoking whilst pregnant also increases the risk of children developing asthma.4

Premature Birth:

Children who are born premature or underweight can be more prone to develop long-term health conditions including asthma.4

Pollution:

Chemicals and fumes from both heavy traffic and industry can worsen asthma symptoms. Children who live close to busy roads are more likely to develop asthma.4

Hormones:

Some female hormones can play a role in triggering a late onset of asthma in women; particularly after the menopause.4

Exposure to Work Triggers:

Known as ‘Occupational Asthma’, sometimes continued exposure to certain things in the workplace can cause asthma. These could include certain chemicals, fumes and dust from flour or wood.4

Common Asthma triggers

Everyone’s asthma is different so what may be a severe trigger for one person may not be as much of a trigger for others. It is important for asthma sufferers to understand and avoid their own triggers in order to manage the condition. Common triggers include but are not limited to:1

Cold Weather Sensitivity:

Asthma sufferers are often more susceptible to cold weather conditions, which can increase the risk of bringing on asthma symptoms.5

Food:

Food allergies and sensitivities can trigger asthma symptoms. Two common sensitivities are histamine (found in yogurts, cheese, and smoked meats) and sulphites (found in processed meats, pickled foods, and some wine/beer/cider).6

Indoor Irritants:

Gas cookers, aerosols and air fresheners are all examples of common irritants found inside the home that can affect the airways.7

Pollution:

Irritants most often found in inner-city regions such as traffic and factory fumes can trigger asthma symptoms.8

Smoking:

Asthma can be triggered by smoking and smoke from cigarettes, cigars and shisha can bring on asthma symptoms.9

Stress & Anxiety:

Feeling stressed or anxious can make people with asthma more susceptible to other usual triggers such as pets, pollen or colds and flu. Stress and anxiety can also lead to emotional triggers, such as feelings of anger.10

Animals & Pets:

Allergies to proteins found in animal skin, feather dust, saliva etc can trigger an immune response that triggers asthma symptoms in sufferers. Animal allergies can develop at any stage in life.11

Pollen & Hay fever:

Allergies to grass, weeds and pollen which cause hay fever can also trigger asthma symptoms. These are more prevalent in spring and summer.12

References

  1. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/understanding-asthma/what-is-asthma/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  2. https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/news/press-release-asthma-death-toll-in-england-and-wales-is-the-highest-this-decade/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  3. https://www.asthma.org.uk/d9fb825b/globalassets/about/annual-reports/annual-report-2018-19-digital.pdf (Last accessed: May 2021)
  4. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/understanding-asthma/causes/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  5. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/understanding/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  6. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/food/#howfoodtriggers/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  7. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/indoor-environment/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  8. https://www.asthma.org.uk/support-us/campaigns/our-policy-work/air-pollution-affects-asthma/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  9. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/smoking/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  10. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/stress/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  11. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/animals-and-pets/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
  12. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/pollen/ (Last accessed: May 2021)
UK-RES-2101556 September 2021 UK-RES-2101554 September 2021