KARACHI - Around 10 percent of children in Pakistan are affected by Asthma and the number is increasing, revealed health experts at a press briefing held in connection with Asthma awareness campaign here on Thursday.

“Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children and the most asthma-related deaths occur in low-and lower-middle income countries like Pakistan. In order to reduce the chances of contracting disease we need collaborative efforts aimed at creating awareness among people,” said Dr Javaid A Khan, Consultant Chest Physician at AKUH, and a prominent member of Pakistan Chest Society while talking to the media men.

He further said that around 5 percent of adults and 10 percent of children in the country were affected by the disease.

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, 235 million people suffered from asthma worldwide,” he said, and added, “It is important to provide patients with appropriate education and skills in order to effectively manage their asthma. This is best achieved through a partnership between the patient and their healthcare providers.”

He brought home the fact that there were some symptoms that should not be underestimated since it was a heterogeneous disease, usually characterized by chronic airway inflammation. “It is defined by a history of respiratory symptoms such as wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that varies over time and in intensity, alongside variable expiratory airflow limitation,” Dr Javaid elaborated.

Dr Nisar Ahmed Rao, Professor and HOD Pulmonologist at Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases DUHS and Pakistan Chest Society Sindh Vice President said that not only the patients but their families faced hardships and sufferings too. “The disease takes its toll on the quality of life of the patients. However, we can reduce the mental stress if we take early measures by consulting the doctor in time,” Rao counseled.

“It is pertinent to mention here that asthma may have detrimental effects on numerous aspects of life, including mental and physical health, social relationships, employment and academic performance,” he said, and added, “In asthma, co-morbidities like anxiety and depression are the most common aspects of patients’ psychopathology. Its treatment in earlier stages is very essential.”

“The long-term goals of asthma treatment are to achieve good symptom control, maintain normal activity levels, reduce future risk of exacerbations and treatment side effects,” he added.

Talking about management Dr Sohail Akhtar, a professor and senior chest specialist at Indus Hospital, said that for best outcomes, regular controller treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of the disease.

Talking about its causes, he said pollution, smoke and genetic reasons were the main causes.

Doctors generally prescribe inhaled corticosteroids over oral corticosteroids, because inhaled medications are more targeted. The effectiveness of inhaled therapy is affected by the correct choice of the device and proper inhalation technique. “Asian Pacific Society of Respiratory in its earlier study has already reported that the level of asthma control is very poor in Pakistan. Over 20 percent of adults and over 30 percent of children reported two or more severe episodes per year,” Dr Sohail revealed.