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Definition and Description of Asthma
Asthma is a very common chronic respiratory disease, which causes inflammation of airways in lungs. Asthma is characterized by breathing difficulties, which affect thousands of people across the globe. Chanez (2012) defines asthma as a chronic inflammatory disease which usually affects the respiratory system. According to Holgate and Douglas (2010), asthma results from inflammation of the air passages which affects the sensitivity of the nerve endings in the airways. This makes the airways easily irritable. Asthma is characterized by recurrent symptoms, reversible obstructions of the flow of air in the airways, and bronchospasm. Asthma is also characterized by an increased production of mucus as a result of narrowing of the air passages in the lungs. The narrowness of the air passages is caused by swelling of their linings which reduces the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Chanez (2012) asserts that asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as air pollution, exposure to cold air and allergens. Inman (2003) also affirms that there are no known causes of asthma though the disease has been associated with genetic and environmental factors. According to Price (2007), asthma attacks usually become worse and severe at night and in the early morning. An individual may also develop severe symptoms after intensive physical exercises or in response to cold air. The most common signs and symptoms of asthma include chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. According to Inman (2003), other health conditions such as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), obstructive sleep apnea, and rhinosinusitis are also highly associated with asthma. It has also been found that anxiety disorders occur among sixteen to fifty-two percent of asthma patients, while mood disorders occur among fourteen to forty-one percent of asthma patients. According to the National Asthma Campaign, Australia, (2010), asthma is more common among children than adults.
Current Incidences and Prevalence of Asthma
The prevalence of a disease means how common the disease is or how it affects a given population. It refers to the number of people affected by the disease. According to Holgate and Douglas (2010), the prevalence of asthma worldwide has considerably increased since the early 1970s. In 2011, approximately three million people across the globe have been diagnosed with asthma. The World Health Organization estimates that asthma caused nearly two hundred and fifty thousand deaths between January and December 2011 (Chanez, 2012).
a) Prevalence of Asthma in Australia
According to official health reports from the government of Australia, asthma affected only nine percent of the population between 2007 and 2008 (Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring, 2011). However, more than ten percent of the population is currently affected by asthma. This implies that more than two million people are affected by asthma in Australia today. According to the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring, (2011), the prevalence of asthma is relatively higher in Australia as compared to the other countries across the globe. No specific reason has been given to explain this high prevalence of asthma in Australia. It was also reported that three hundred and seventy-nine people died from asthma infections in 2011. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, higher risks of infection were reported among the elderly people.
According to the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011), the rate of prevalence of asthma among children in Australia has slightly reduced. However, there is no considerable change in prevalence rates that has been noted among Australian adults. Moreover, asthma affects more boys than girls in Australia. Higher prevalence rates have been reported among children aged between one and fourteen years. Contrastingly, more females aged above fifteen years contract asthma as compared to their male counterparts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reports that a majority of children who suffer from asthma in Australia have infrequent intermittent asthma, which occurs occasionally over short periods, while only five percent of children suffer from persistent asthma (Lorig, 2012). Moreover, a majority of Australian adults suffer from mild or very mild asthma.
Asthma is the second most reported infection among the indigenous Australians. The National Asthma Council of Australia also affirms that over two million Australians have asthma with about one in every ten adults and one in every nine children suffering from the illness. Asthma is more common among people living in remote areas of Australia. Although there are higher rates of hospitalization due to asthma infections , most of the patients often survive. It is estimated that the government of Australia usually spends approximately 600 million U.S. dollars every year for the prevention and treatment of asthma.
b) Prevalence of Asthma in the United States of America
In the United States of America, the rate of prevalence of asthma increased from 7.6 in 2005 to 8.7 percent in 2010. Approximately twenty-five million of Americans suffer from asthma. The prevalence of asthma in the United States is higher among children than adults. Similarly, higher incidences of asthma infections are reported among non-native Americans, such as African Americans and Indian Americans than among the native or white Americans. A reduction of health care visits for asthma infections in the United States was reported between 2009 and 2010. This indicated a slight decrease in asthma infections in the country. Today, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that forty-four thousand people get attacked by asthma in the United States every day, while nine people die every day because of asthma illnesses. Asthma is classified as the most common chronic condition among children in the United States of America (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America & National Pharmaceutical Council, U.S., 2012). Approximately five million Americans who suffer from asthma are aged below eighteen years. In addition, more females die from asthma infections than males. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that seven percent of the American population suffers from asthma, and more than four thousand people die every year because of asthma illnesses.
c) Prevalence of Asthma in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, approximately five percent of the population suffers from asthma. It is further estimated that one percent of asthma patients are children, while four percent are adults. One thousand five hundred and seventy deaths were reported to have resulted from asthma infections in 2012 in the United Kingdom. Today, at least three people die every day in the United Kingdom because of asthma infections. According to Chanez (2012), approximately one billion sterling pounds are used every year for the prevention and treatment of asthma in the United Kingdom.
Inter-Professional Health Care Team that Treats Asthma in the Australian Health Care System
The treatment of asthma in the Australian health care system is relatively simple and well defined. This is because there is no known cure for asthma, hence health care only strives to reduce the symptoms. According to Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (2011), the inter-professional health care team that treats asthma in Australia comprises of general health care practitioners, pharmacists, asthma educators, nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals who work collaboratively to prevent and treat asthma among the patients.
Treatment and Prevention Methods that are Used for Asthma and Specific Roles of the Health Professionals when Undertaking the Treatment and Prevention Strategies
Asthma has no known cure. However, the symptoms can be treated by inhaling short-acting beta-2 agonist and oral corticosteroids. In cases of severe infection, asthma can be treated through use of intravenous corticosteroids and magnesium sulfate.
On the other hand, the most common preventive method that can be used to prevent asthma is avoiding its triggers such as allergens, cigarette smoke, pets, and irritants. The symptoms can also be prevented through inhalation of corticosteroids. The most common allergens that cause asthma include dust mites, pollen grains, mold, cockroaches, etc. Certain food preservatives may also cause asthma among some people. A research study conducted by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also found out that asthma can be caused by stress and strong emotions. However, no other research has backed these findings. Respiratory infections such as flu or common cold are also believed to cause asthma. Lorig (2012) also affirms that avoidance of triggers is a key component of preventing, controlling and managing asthma attacks. Lorig (2012) advises that if the avoidance of triggers is not sufficient for the prevention of symptoms of asthma, then medications can be used. The type of medication or drugs to be used in the treatments of signs and symptoms of asthma depends on two major factors, namely the severity of the illness and frequency of occurrences of symptoms. According to the National Asthma Campaign, Australia, (2010), bronchodilators are usually used for the short-term relief of symptoms. People who suffer from persistent or daily attacks are advised to use higher doses of inhalers, such as corticosteroids. Long-acting beta-adrenoceptor agonists, such as salmeterol and formoterol, can also be used to prevent symptoms in the long run.
The main health professionals who are involved in the provision of these treatments are physicians and nurses. Physicians would prescribe dosages for patients, while nurses would provide care to patients as well as ensure that the prescribed drugs are used accordingly by them.