Asthma has been making millions of lives miserable each year, and this is happening for thousands of years. If someone is suffering from it or knows someone with asthma, they are familiar with the nonstop coughing accompanied by shortness of breath, which often results in a whining sound. Although this disease has caused millions of deaths, experts are still struggling to find the cause and a permanent cure for it. For some, it is not an issue, for others, it limits an individual’s ability to carry out daily tasks, and sometimes, it can also be fatal. Here are some interesting facts about it:
1. What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation of the lungs, which induces coughing and shortness of breath. As the lungs are inflamed, it makes the patient susceptible to breathlessness even with small changes in the environment or certain chemicals because of increased sensitivity and mucus. Once the triggers, which are usually allergens like pollen and dirt, are inhaled, it makes the airways swell further, resulting in a life-threatening event known as an asthma attack.
2. Asthma is Chronic
What is more dangerous than a life-threatening condition with no cure? That this is a chronic illness. Plus, it can happen to anyone, from children to the elderly. Fortunately, most cases of asthma in children disappear once their lungs are fully developed. Unfortunately, a person can re-develop asthma in the future.
3. An Ancient Disease
Humans have had asthma for thousands of years. Its mentions can be found in Chinese and Egyptian records that date back to 2,000 B.C. Despite it being that old, it was only thought of as a symptom, even by the father of medicine, Hippocrates. Asthma was first referred to as a disease in 100 A.D. by Aretaeus of Cappadocia, a Greek physician; however, the association of triggers such as pollen and breathlessness was pointed out by Pliny the Elder in 50 A.D. The remedy for this problem suggested by Aretaeus was drinking a cocktail of owl’s blood and wine.
4. Modern Interpretation
The word asthma has its roots in Greek, which means breathlessness. The present and accepted definition of asthma surfaced in the 19th century by Dr. Henry Hyde Salter. He went to describe asthma with detailed sketches, and what exactly happens in the lungs during an asthma attack in his book, On Asthma. Dr. Henry described the condition as:
Paroxysmal dyspnoea of a peculiar character with intervals of healthy respiration between attacks.”
Followed by that, Sir William Osler, co-founder of the John Hopkins Medical School, laid out his own description of asthma. Although he accurately stated that asthma differed from an allergic reaction, he claimed airways were blocked due to muscle spasms. This led to patients taking medication for spasms, which resulted in an increased number of deaths caused by asthma during the mid-1960s. Finally, in the 1980s, the presently accepted definition of asthma was introduced after many clinical trials.
5. Common Among Children
According to the reports of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are nearly 7 million children with asthma in the United States, and a majority of adults that have asthma develop it in their childhood. Moreover, symptoms of asthma are identical in children compared to adults. Also, children under five with asthma make up for more than half of the patients that land in the emergency room.
6. Unknown Origins
While a majority of people know that there is no lasting cure for asthma, most are unaware of the fact that physicians are not clear about what causes asthma. Still, according to a study conducted in 2010, asthma might be hereditary. It showed that children, even if one of their parents had asthma, were twice as likely to get asthma compared to children with healthy parents.
7. Easy Diagnosis
Despite it being an incurable disease, diagnosis of asthma is relatively easy. Besides an X-ray, there are three ways to diagnose asthma:
- FeNO Test- This test measures levels of nitric oxide in the breath. Once lungs are inflamed, the level of this compound is elevated as well.
- Spirometry- This test measures how intensely a person can breathe out. It also tests the capacity of the lungs.
- Peak Flow Test- It is similar Spirometry test; however, it is done over the course of a week on a smaller handheld device.
8. Germs to the Rescue
The consensus is that germs are bad for us. This stands true for the most part, except when they are helpful, whether it be indirectly. According to the hygiene hypothesis, as the immune system is developing, exposing children to germs results in their immune system learning about the harmful germs and creating antibodies early on. Although this theory is not accepted entirely, physicians believe that it can minimize the risk of developing asthma.
9. Women Are More Vulnerable
While the number of asthma cases is nearly doubled in male children than in females, once they hit puberty, these numbers are switched. Once again, the real reason behind this is unknown, but researchers believe that inflammation must be linked with an increase in ovarian hormones. Likewise, testosterone is known to reduce inflammation.
10. Asthma and Eczema
A majority of asthma patients are also observed to experience eczema at some point in their life. This happens because both asthma and eczema result from inflammation that is triggered by various environmental allergens.