It was no less than a nightmare for Shalini Sharma, when her eight-year-old son had to be admitted to a hospital after he suffered from a severe chest pain and was unable to breathe. The boy, Vishnu Sharma in fact had an asthma attack. His mother did not have the slightest clue that her son could have an asthma attack at such a tender age.
“I went completely numb when the doctor told me that Vishnu had suffered an asthma attack and needed to be kept under observation for some time,” said Shalini Sharma.
“I never thought Vishnu could have an asthma attack. I had noticed his little wheezing while playing and sometimes at night, but I found to be nothing serious, thinking he will overcome it,” she added.
Like Shalini, there are many who miss the warning signs of asthma due to lack of knowledge about the disease. This worsens the patient’s condition, making it difficult to manage the disease and its fallout.
Like most diseases, ignorance and lots of misconceptions prevail among people about asthma. Some think it’s just a psychological thing and will vanish with time; others believe it can be prevented just by avoiding the triggers.
Inhalers are the last resort for all of them. There are many who do not go for treatment, driven by the misconception that it may cause some side effects. Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the airways, where inflammation of the air passage causes difficulty in breathing. Healthcare experts have observed that asthma in most patients remains poorly controlled. This results in daily recurrence of symptoms, limitation of daily activities and severe exacerbation in spite of regular oral medication.
To overcome these problems, inhalation therapy has been used as a preferred mode of treatment for mild, moderate or severe asthma, as compared to oral medication.
Shriya, a seven-year-old asthma patient, had a sudden coughing spell and fell consciousness while playing with her friends. When taken to hospital, it was revealed that she was not taking her medication as recommended. In fact, her prescription inhaler was not with her when she had collapsed.
“She had been feeling better and hence was kept out of the medication. I was reluctant to give it to her ever since we learned that it contains steroids. We feared it might be addictive or may hamper her growth,” said Shriya’s father.
Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children, and the number of children falling prey to it is rising every year. According to a WHO Fact sheet, prevalence of asthma in India is between 10-15 per cent among children of 5-11 years.
Studies have shown that despite advancements in pharmacological treatment, management of childhood asthma is often compromised due to factors including poor communication between doctor and parents, misconceptions and/or poor knowledge about asthma on the part of parents, and a lack of adherence to medication and treatment regimens.
“I have seen many cases where people have the weirdest notions about asthma and its treatment. The saddest part about asthma is that it is a highly misunderstood disease. It’s time to end these misconceptions, which can, and does, kill, if not managed in time. It is important to remember that incomplete knowledge can be life-threatening; even as knowing how to properly manage it can improve the life of the patient,” said Dr Subhasis Roy, a city-based doctor.