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Asthma attack

Nasik Swami
Wednesday, February 05, 2014

ASTHMA cases are on the rise with the country's largest medical referral institution, the CWM Hospital, seeing about 15 to 20 cases a week.

And they are becoming common among youths between 14 to 20 years of age.

The hospital's asthma campaign head and medical officer at the emergency department, Dr Vivek Lal, said the hospital recorded one asthma-related death at the beginning of this year and 18 deaths last year.

"The cases are in all the health centres in Fiji, 95 per cent of the health centres see asthma cases," Dr Lal said.

"It has been a burden on health (ministry) for some time but the thing is that people are forgetting about asthma because there are things such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks that are killing more than asthma so people have actually put this (asthma) below the blanket," Dr Lal said.

"There are a lot of young people. Somebody who is walking along the street — 14, 15 and 16 years old — they could be looking fit and fine one moment then they have an asthma attack and they die."

He said the cost of treating an asthmatic patient in the ICU — the last care available before the patient passes on — is between $1000 to $1500 per day.

"Asthma itself is the swelling up of the airways of the lungs or throat, basically the lower smaller airways.

"It is a modified kind of an allergic reaction so when a person gets exposed to that allegiant for example dust, smoke, pollen, cold air and running nose, soar throat or cough - these reactions get triggered in their body and they become short of breath so basically the airways start to close down.

"And if this is not treated immediately then it escalates into the airways shutting down and then the patient is not able to breathe and there is no oxygen going into the brain, they (patients) basically die."

Dr Lal said the issue with those with asthma was that they were not getting the treatment the way it should be and were not on medication that could prevent the condition.

"The asthmatic generally knows when they need the nebuliser so whenever they are short of breath and have their pump, they use it or they come to the hospital for the nebuliser.

"There are medications that can prevent this asthma from coming back, we can't cure but we can prevent it," Dr Lal said.

He said the other factor contributing to the increasing number of cases was poor education.

World Asthma Day will be celebrated on May 7 with the theme - Asthma: The Forgotten NCD.

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