According to allergy and immunology expert at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), incorrect use of medication is a leading cause of unnecessary asthma attacks, emergency department visits, and hospital admissions.
Dr Mehdi Adeli, Senior Consultant in Allergy and Immunology at HMC, said that asthma affects around 20% of school-aged children in Qatar. He said that while the condition cannot be cured, it can be controlled and ongoing medical care is an important part of the equation.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness but it is a manageable disease. It is managed by controlling inflammation with medication, good medical care, monitoring, and avoiding triggers, when possible.’
Triggers are factors that irritate the airways and cause asthma symptoms. There are multiple triggers of asthma, with allergens and irritants being the most common. Triggers can change from season to season and as a child grows older, but common triggers include dust mites, pet dander, viral infections, and cigarette smoke. The change in weather can also be a trigger, with Qatar’s summer months often bringing dust and humidity.
According to Dr Adeli, the transition from winter to summer can be challenging for patients with asthma, both children and adults, because it is the time of year when some stop taking their medication. For many individuals with asthma, this time of year is the best time in terms of managing symptoms. The warm weather often helps to alleviate symptoms and spending more time outside, getting exercise and having reduced exposure to indoor allergens can reduce flare-ups.
During this time of year, we also see fewer patients with colds and flu and respiratory infections can be a leading cause of asthma attacks. However, this can be a dangerous time for those with asthma as the lessening of symptoms can be accompanied by some patients reducing, or even stopping, their asthma medications.’
Dr Adeli said it’s important for patients, and parents in the case of child patients, to ensure all medications are taken as prescribed, even if there are no symptoms. Many patients are lulled into a false sense of security if they go for a long period without an attack, but that stopping prescribed medications can result in compromised lung function.
Developing an effective medication plan to control asthma can take time. Different medications work more or less effectively for different kinds of asthma, and some combinations work well for some patients but not for others. According to Dr Adeli, most children with asthma benefit from preventive treatment because it decreases inflammation in the airways. He said that for most patients a combination of medicine is prescribed covering both quick-relief medications (rescue) and long-term preventive medications (controller).
The HMC Allergy and Immunology Awareness Programme (AIAP) is focused on educating the public about allergies and immunology and empowering patients and their families to increase patient satisfaction and confidence and reduce emergency room visits for allergy-related illnesses.
As part of ongoing efforts to increase public awareness and dispel cultural myths and misconceptions about immunodeficiency diseases and compromised immunities, the programme provides a number of online resources for patients, their families, and healthcare providers. For information on the programme, and access to a variety of online resources, visit the HMC website at hamad.qa.