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Dr. S.L. Marbaniang
According to the findings of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) part 1 which was conducted during 1992-93, Meghalaya ranked a very high with regard to asthma disease. People afflicted with asthma find difficulties in breathing and tend to be suffocated. At times, it seems as if  patients might lost their life. It is a pathetic scene to witness asthma patients struggling desperately to get their breath. This case is worse if parents find that their children experience breathing problems because wheezing sound is a symptom of asthma.
People who are allergic to any cause will firstly experience difficulty in breathing which, if untreated and not taken care of right since the initial stage, may escalate and create complication afterwards. The cause of allergy may be due to breathing in which dust, pollens, animal hair, and feathers are taken along. These enter through the nostrils and also affect the system. Allergy may also arise when food taken is not suitable to the digestive system. It is for people themselves to detect and to, therefore, know which food is good and which food is not.
Some people are allergic to pork. This means that if they consume pork, then they develop rashes all over the body followed by breathing trouble. Others are allergic to some other food items. Hence, it is important to be well-aware of the dangers that await if and when wrong food is consumed. During such experience, the reaction of the unsuitable food will be felt first in the air passage. It will become so narrow that the victim will find it very hard to breathe. The sufferer wheezes and coughs. The condition is worse when it concerns children. When children are attacked with asthma, they become weak and helpless. Their face turns pale and transforms into blue colour.
Asthma may also attack the persons who are very tired or unhappy or upset. Psychological effects cause the small bronchial passage in the lungs to become swollen with inflammation, partially blocked by phlegm. The narrowness in the air passage may also be caused because the muscles surrounding the air tubes become tight. What emanates at the time of breathing is the sorrowful wheezing sound.
Parents have to take good care of their children right from the infancy stage if they detect or suspect any symptom of asthma. Babies may have the wheezing sound at the time of breathing which may become noisy as they grow up. Once medical attention is obtained, they will grow up normally. The small air tubes expand thus allowing normal breathing devoid of any possible wheezy signs.
Sometimes asthma is caused by toughing something which irritates the skin. Chemicals, cosmetics, soaps, dyes, fabrics, and fur may cause an allergic rash. Poison ivy rash is a common allergy that people may develop. Asthma may also be hereditary.
In case of babies and young kids, they may develop red, itching skin when they play with pets like dogs and cats. However, the symptom will disappear if they are far away from such pets. It is therefore, important for parents to take serious note of this and thus not allow their kids to play with cats and dogs nor allow anywhere near them. The best thing to do is to put these domestic animals in safe enclosure. Other symptoms to be carefully observed in their children are fast heartbeats, restlessness and panic.
Bouts of asthmatic attacks may last for a few minutes. But serious ones are of longer duration, extending for hours. The latter cases are to be treated by a doctor immediately, otherwise the victim may collapse and subsequently die from lack of oxygen, strain or exhaustion.
There is a simple test in checking the cause of asthma and it is called the scratch test. First and foremost, a person who is a victim of asthmatic attack is to undergo tiny scratches to be made in rows on the back and forearm. Next, a small amount of suspected material like house dust, cat hair or dog hair, leaves of trees, etc. is placed on each scratch. If there are no reactions that appear externally, then these are not the culprits. But if the scratch becomes red, than the culprit is identified and accordingly the victim has to take precautions. The red marks are called eczemas, which are itching and then become dry and scaly.
Among infants and children, asthma usually starts as hay fever. After the disease is cured, it disappear but, in fact, lies low. Then, unexpectedly, it suddenly re-appears out of the blue in adulthood or later on, which is more dangerous and troublesome. It is often associated with chest pains every now and then. When this happens, it becomes more acute and so more difficult to cure.
If asthma is not seriously taken and given continuous care and treatment, it may become more difficult and complicated. Older people who have serious heart disease may experience cardiac asthma at night when nobody is around. Some times, victims may pass away while asleep. Nevertheless, the two are not one and the same. Basically and in truth, asthma is nothing but a respiratory problem of serious nature. Asthmatic bronchitis, which is also known as Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease (COAD), is a possibility after bronchitis attacks.
A doctor who examines asthmatic patients usually takes into account the time of the year, the place of occurrence, the food they consume and the pets they have. In fact, a doctor considers the whole environment. For example, in Khasi and Jaintia Hills there is a type of wood known locally as “diengsong” which usually is responsible for many cases of asthma when it matures and give out flowers at certain time of the year. When the seeds are burnt, they emit peculiar smell which is quite irritating. The tree grows to a height of up to 10 feet and is provided with thorny skin. The Khasi elders used to warn of the impending disaster if people did not take necessary precautions during such time.
The best remedies to allergies is avoiding the things that cause an allergic reaction. Before doing so, it is imperative to know what the causes are which is quite a very difficult task, unless one is a very keen observer. Desensitizing of the patient by a doctor is the next step. This means that a doctor will make a victim less sensitive to a probable culprit suspected to be responsible for asthma. The victim will receive a series of injections containing the material to which he or she is sensitive, the amount or the dosage first started is very small. Gradually, it is increased until it reaches the optimum level. Sometimes, the doctor may administer drugs to relieve the patients of allergies.
Parents are worried if they notice that their child may show symptoms of asthma. The first and foremost duty for them is to identify the causes and to immediately rectify them by not allowing the child to come into close contact with them. They ought to be well-acquainted with the types of seasons and to keep close surveillance the reaction that their child may develop. At certain time of the year, some plants give out pollens which float in the air and so affect the child. It may happen that when the weather is cloudy and rainy, a child may feel suffocated and wheeze during breathing. Heartbeat may grow fast, up to 90 beats per minute. If such occurrences become frequent especially during night time, parents need not show any anxiety. What they should do, however, is to take the child to a doctor.
Early detection and early treatment are crucial because the child may be cured of the pain. The parents are to encourage their child to lead a normal life and to inspire awareness and confidence in him or her. They should not hide facts from the boy or girl, however, young or small the child may be. They ought also to inform the child of the danger if he or she persists in playing with the pets at home for example. But as far as practicable, pets are to be kept in special places and far away from the child’s reach.
Some of the sport activities which children like are
to be noted down carefully if they produce adverse health conditions on them. For example, swimming and diving in water are favourites for a good number of young boys and girls or even growing children. But to some of them, being in water for quite some time, it may affect their body system whereby they develop breathing problem or face may change colour turning pale and weak. However, good the activity may be for building up to their muscles, yet in such cases it is advisable for parents to discourage their children. They can take up other alternate game.
In adults, the doctor is to be consulted if any of the symptoms appear or cause some distress. There is no use to delay, otherwise the condition might worsen. People, sometimes, get confused with cases of heart attack. Nevertheless, they should maintain coolness and tension-free best it provokes and thus tends to be severe.
Asthma cannot be prevented, especially if it is hereditary and has persisted for long. But if people take care and watch their activities, they can reduce probability of attack. They should avoid dust, as far as possible. So at the time of cleaning of their home and rooms, they should not be near. They ought to let others do the cleaning and sweeping. Avoid smoking and smoking surroundings as well.
Breathing clean and fresh air, free from dust or smoke and pollens is important. It is always good and advisable to breathe through the nose because this part of the body is equipped with many subparts which clean the air before it enters the lungs. But in case of nose-blocking or due to sinus problems, breathing has to be performed through the mouth.


We are always reminded about the importance of health, right from childhood and early days. After all, none can disagree with the maxim, “Health is Wealth”. In case of babies and children, parents and elders should keep close vigilance on any outward symptoms which sound warning of any impending disaster. When they became adolescents and adults, they are to take care of their own health.
In case of asthma, it is to be remembered that early diagnose and thus followed by care and treatment is important. During rainy season, people should warm themselves near the fire place and hang the clothes also at suitable places to dry. This practice is very common among the people in the hilly region of Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Never, never hang wet clothes in the sleeping room.




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