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Asthma, not just a childhood disease

Sometimes it is due to allergies and sometimes it can prolong or extend the duration of a cough after a cold. Not everyone with asthma has acute attacks of wheezing or turns blue.

At one time, asthma was an under-diagnosed condition, but the pendulum seems to have recently swung the other way. It can be diagnosed with the help of a machine called a spirometer, which measures both the rate and amount of expired air from the lungs.

Andrew Bush and Dr. Louise Fleming of Imperial College and Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom published a recent article in the Archives of Disease in Childhood discussing a study in which half of 100 children with a chronic cough received an asthma diagnosis. Once the coughs were investigated, the number believed to be asthma dwindled to five per cent.

“Inhaled corticosteroids, when properly used, dramatically improve quality of life and reduce the risk of asthma attacks and mortality,” reported the researchers.

They said inhalers should not be handed out like candy because they have side-effects. They can suppress normal growth in children and as they work by suppressing the immune system in the airways, they can also actually prolong respiratory illnesses or leave them more susceptible to new infections.

There are medical conditions that can be confused with asthma. They range from vocal cord dysfunction to laryngeal or bronchial cancers. Wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing can also be caused by a foreign body getting stuck in the trachea-windpipe.

Gastrointestinal reflux can mimic asthma symptoms as can chronic or acute sinusitis. In older individuals, congestive heart failure can be the problem and some blood pressure medications may have the side-effect of giving the user a chronic cough. If the older person had a history of smoking, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should be considered.

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