Frequently Asked Questions
Fortunately, asthma is not contagious. However, it could be inherited. If your parents or siblings have asthma, eczema or hay fever, you are at a higher risk of developing asthma. A child is three times more likely to develop asthma if a single parent has it and the risk doubles if both parents have it. However, it is important to note that the genetics are complicated – just because you have asthma, it does not automatically mean your children will inherit it.
There are no hard and fast rules. Everyone is different – food or drinks affect each patient differently. The key thing is to know your own body and to avoid items that provoke a response. Common items include shellfish, prawns, crab, nuts and watermelon.
When an inhaler is used properly, a small amount of medicine will enter the digestive tract. Therefore, inhaler use is not allowed when fasting during Ramadhan. Muslim patients are advised to use their preventer inhalers before sunrise and at night.
However, it is understood within Islam that patients who require ongoing medication during the day are exempted from fasting. In return, they will have to make a donation (fidyah). Patients who require emergency inhaler use are allowed to break their fast with the understanding that they will replace the fast as soon as they are able to.
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS)
Steroids can be taken through an inhaler. These preventer medicines act directly on the lungs – where it is needed. As a result, very little is absorbed into the body. This decreases the side-effects. It is important to stress that ICS is the most important treatment in the management of asthma – it is the only form of treatment that SAVES LIVES. If your asthma is not under control, then you will need to be on an ICS. All medicine have potential side effects. With ICS, there is a small risk of developing a sore throat, a hoarse voice and a minor throat infection called thrush with the use of ICS. The risks can be lowered by gargling and rinsing your throat after each inhalation. Using a spacer can also help reduce the risk of thrush.
Steroid tablets are usually used for the treatment of an asthma attack or for the control of asthma that is very difficult to treat. Due to its potential side effects, the dose and duration of treatment are usually kept to a minimum. Short courses do not usually result in side effects. In some circumstances, it can cause heartburn, insomnia and mood swings.
Long-term steroid use may result in the following:
- increased hunger and appetite (leading to weight gain)
- over-activity (steroids should be taken in the morning, not evening)
- mood swings
- easy bruising of the skin
- osteoporosis (brittle bones)
- fattening of the face
- difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels, sometimes leading to diabetes
- heartburn and indigestion
In rare cases, long-term steroid use cannot be avoided. Your doctor can give more details regarding the side effects listed above and advise on the ways to control them. These include discontinuing smoking, taking tablets to strengthen the bones and regular weight-bearing exercise. For some, an alternative to steroids may be necessary.