Asthma more severe in seniors than in children

by | August 1, 2017

This chronic disease can develop at any age and seniors who have it are prone to lower quality of life.


Seniors with asthma are more likely to have lower quality of life, poor general health, symptoms of depression, and limitation of activities of daily living.

Asthma affects some 300 million people worldwide. Though this chronic disease tends to be focused around children as symptoms are first developed at a young age, asthma however can develop at just about any age, including in seniors. It is not uncommon for those in their 70s or 80s to develop asthma symptoms for the first time, according to the US’ Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. A study in the US also found that around 100 in 100,000 of residents aged 65 to 74 years were at risk of developing asthma.

What is worse is that it can also be more severe in seniors than in children with its deadliness peaking significantly from the age of 60, according to Singapore statistics published on health research website, HealthGrove. It is often under-diagnosed, under-treated and poorly managed. Seniors with asthma are also more likely to have lower quality of life, poor general health, symptoms of depression, and limitation of activities of daily living or ADLs, shared a study on the US’ National Center for Biotechnology Information website.


The symptoms

So, what is asthma and what are some common symptoms? It is a potentially serious form of chronic disease that causes the narrowing and inflammation of the airways, making it hard for sufferers to breathe. Symptoms can include wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, and a cough that can vary over time in occurrence, frequency and intensity. Recurrent asthma symptoms can cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and work absenteeism. Asthma is different from allergy, which is the body’s immune system reaction to a substance such as food or pollen, to which a person has become hypersensitive to.

Although the fundamental causes of asthma are not completely understood, there are several, inhaled risk factors that can lead to the development of asthma and may trigger its symptoms. These include (some of these are also common in those who have allergies):

• PM 2.5 – These are microscopic air pollutants with the size below 2.5 micrometers. Long-term exposure to them can trigger pulmonary oxidative stress and inflammation. This damage is associated with the primary development of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People with heart or lung disease (asthma and COPD) are under increased risk because these particles can aggravate the disease process.

• Bacteria and viruses – Inhalation of viruses or bacteria can cause influenza, common cold, tuberculosis and other infections, and further increase the risk of asthma or COPD symptoms.

• Allergens

1) Mold spores: These can produce irritants and potentially toxic substances, which when inhaled by sensitive people may trigger allergic reactions or asthma symptoms.

2) Pet dander: These contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthmatic attacks.

3) Dust mites: The waste they produce is a potent trigger for asthma.

• Dry air – Around 60 percent of the human body is water. Indoors, dry air draws water out of skin and hair cells, causing itchy skin, chapped lips, brittle hair and redeye. It can aggravate allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions, and ruin a good night’s sleep.

Failure to recognise and avoid these triggers that lead to asthma symptoms may result in an asthma attack, unplanned doctor/hospital visit and even death.

What can sufferers do to manage their disease? There are two types of asthma medication. Long-term control medications are preventive, taken daily to achieve and maintain control of asthma symptoms. Quick-relief medications are used to treat asthma attacks. They relieve symptoms rapidly and are taken on an as-needed basis.


Avoiding asthma triggers 

Reducing contact with the triggers of asthma can help to reduce the severity of its symptoms. This can be done by:

  • Quit smoking. Active smoking can lead to the development of asthma and bronchial hyper-responsiveness among seniors and adult smoking has been associated with remission in childhood-onset asthma.
  • Keeping a diary of your symptoms. This can help you and your doctor get a clear idea of what may be triggering your asthma.
  • Using an air purifier to reduce allergens and control their levels.
  • Managing your stress can help keep your asthma under control. Find an approach that works for you, such as relaxation, exercise, etc.
  • If a beloved pet is part of your family, try to keep it out of your bedroom and off furniture. If possible, pets should be bathed frequently.
  • Keeping the humidity in the air in your home between 30 and 50 percent can help asthma symptoms. You can do this by getting a humidifier.
  • If you have any concerns about your asthma or the triggers that may affect it, speak to your doctor.


(** The information above has been provided by Philips in conjunction with World Asthma Day.)

(** PHOTO CREDIT: Philips)



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