• An ongoing study covering 6,000 school children and their parents in Chandigarh has shown 6-7 percent incidence of asthma among them. It has also been noticed that incidence of asthma is higher in certain specific locations, like among those living in a clutch of houses adjoining the Sector 22-Sector 35 dividing road, indicating that higher level of pollution lead to higher incidence of asthma. The study has been undertaken by Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh under 4th phase of an International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).

Sharing this information with media persons on the occasion of World Asthma Day, Dr. Meenu Singh, Professor, Pediatric Medicine, PGIMER, and Dr. Kranti Garg, Assistant Professor, Chest, Government Medical College & Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, Chandigarh said though the incidence of asthma in Chandigarh may not be alarming, an issue of concern is that because of improper use of inhalers, control of the problem is poor among patients in India, according to the Asia-Pacific Asthma Insights Management (AP-AIM) Survey.

Photo By : Life In Chandigarh

The doctors claimed that despite this, removal of the social stigma attached to asthma and acceptance of inhalers as the safest and most effective form of treatment have allowed many sufferers to lead normal and active lives. The best a doctor can do for asthma patients is to share with them and their families the diagnosis in its totality and urge them to follow the treatment protocol properly and consistently, Dr. Meenu Singh said.

Dr. Meenu Singh and Dr. Kranti Garg shared that “The key challenges in the management of asthma include improving compliance and developing effective and easy-to-use inhalers. Many patients frequently underutilise their medications or use their inhalers incorrectly, which can be detrimental to maintaining disease control.”

They maintained that “Today inhalation therapy is the mainstay of treatment for asthma. Inhaled medicines are integral to the management of respiratory diseases like asthma. They deliver drugs directly to the lungs and hence act faster and at a lower dose, thereby reducing the risk of side effects. Inhaled medications have been shown to improve disease status, control symptoms, reduce the number and severity of exacerbations and improve quality of life.”

While detailing the various inhaler devices available in the market, including the pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs), dry powder inhalers (DPIs) and nebulisers, the doctors informed that many patients find pMDIs difficult to use correctly. Poor hand-breath co-ordination is one of the most commonly reported errors with pMDIs. DPIs are
breath-actuated and hence overcome the problem of hand-breath coordination. However, a significant proportion of patients fail to use their DPI correctly as well. One of the common errors made by patients with a DPI is the failure to inhale forcefully and deeply through the device, leading to insufficient drug delivery, they added.

Dr Meenu Singh and Dr Kranti Garg said among various other contributing factors to asthma, Vitamin D deficiency, which is quite widespread among people, is one of the significant factors. Vitamin D, the biological structure of which is similar to steroids, helps tremendously in boosting our immune system. Therefore, there is a need to supplement it in our body with adequate direct exposure of the skin to the sun, which is a natural source of the Vitamin. Button mushrooms, after their prolonged exposure to the sun, are also known to be a rich source of Vitamin D, they added.

Disapproving the increasing trend among girls to cover their faces with scarves, the doctors said by doing so they were further reducing direct exposure of skin to the sun, leading to Vitamin D deficiency. Strongly advocating fortifying food stuffs with Vitamin D supplements, Dr Meenu Singh and Dr Kranti Garg said the Indian government must realise that Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem in the country and take proactive remedial action just as was being done in the European Union countries and in the US.

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