Dealing With Asthma: Part 1

How many of you have experienced the quiet joy that comes when watching infants sleep — the complete relaxation and oh-so-gentle in-and-out movement of their breathing. Certainly, we marvel at the miracle of life, the intricate workings of which we strive to understand and care for.

As such, when illness disrupts the flow of our lives, we instinctively look for ways to heal ourselves, drawing on the medical information available to us. Asthma is one of those conditions that affect the very core of our existence — our ability to breathe.


A Growing Epidemic

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the number of people with self-reported asthma has risen from 246 million in 2010 to 339 million in 2018. This growing epidemic is a serious problem that we have inadvertently created with the introduction of technologies that disrupt the integrity of major resources that we depend on for our lives. The air we breathe, the water we drink, our food supplies and our living environment have all become polluted. Our dilemma is twofold: How do we restore the integrity of the resources, and how do we adjust molecular structures to make living possible?

Many of us may have seen disturbing images on the television of asthmatic patients in hospital emergency rooms literally fighting for their breath and lives. I, for one, have been there and experienced this. At the age of six, I was diagnosed with acute childhood asthma and was on several medications for months on end, including the Ventolin inhaler and the Nebuliser. The side effects of these medications took a toll on my body — I was literally a walking stick-man with dark eye circles and pesky skin problems. It got so bad at one point of time with eight different medications to take in a single sitting that my body nearly gave up. The medications were suppressing the symptoms, getting me from one crisis to another, but failed to do the one thing they were tasked to do — heal my body, and they certainly could not eliminate the recurring asthma triggers. I was in and out of the hospital countless times in the space of a year and it went on throughout my primary school years.

Asthma is a horrid medical condition to have as a child, and a chronic one at that. If you or your child have a history of asthma, it is important that you make yourself aware of the possible indicators of a potential asthma attack by asking yourself or observing your child to see whether their shoulders are lifted when they breathe, are they currently wheezing, do they have trouble completing sentences without taking a short, wheezy breath about halfway through, do they have a rapid or bounding pulse or are they experiencing any abdominal, back or sternum pain or tenderness in the ribs. These are tell-tale signs of your asthma, or your child’s, acting up.

If the answers to the questions above were a resounding yes, then keep reading.


Find The Triggers

When treating asthma, the first step to tackling this medical problem is to identify the triggers for the symptoms. Food, unhealthy environmental factors or even the psychological and emotional stressors we encounter in life can all play a part in asthma.

For me, my triggers were sweet, sour and cold. Therefore, growing up, I missed out on all the candies, snacks and desserts that were within my triggering range. I only had ice cream and candies on very special occasions like on my own birthday or during the Hari Raya period. I was kept on a tight leash, but I realise now that it was a little evil for the greater good as my asthma episodes dropped significantly during my early teenage years.


The Art Of Breathing

Another method to tackle asthma is to practice proper breathing. To get a sense of the correct way to breathe, lie yourself down on a mat. Take a few moments to do a relaxation check from head to toe. Rest your hands gently on your stomach just below your rib cage, fingertips touching. Again, relax and gently inhale through your nose. As you exhale, gently push your hands up as high as you can with your stomach muscles, while at the same time, keeping your chest muscles and shoulders relaxed and motionless. Your chest will expand somewhat towards the end of your inhalation.

As you exhale, use the same belly muscles to squeeze every last drop of air out of our lungs. As you try to completely and fully contract your diaphragm muscles and push out air, your hands will lower and your fingertips will touch again. When you’ve reached the end of your breath, begin to hum, you will notice that even though you think you are out of air, there is still enough air left to hum for several more heartbeats. Execute this exercise slowly, so that you take about four full breaths per minute.

This exercise not only improves your breathing, it is also a good way to get rid of tensions during the day.