Recurrent sinusitis and sneezing fits that refuse to go away could be early warning signs of asthma and allergy to dust, pollen and pollutants in the atmosphere that constricts the airways in sensitive people.

“April and May are particularly bad months for people with sensitivities, as we see a rise in cases of summer allergies. Most people take sinusitis casually, but it is found to be a triggering factor for asthma in about 70% of the cases. If you leave it untreated, it’s bound to trickle down to the lungs and cause inflammation,” said Dr Vivek Nangia, director, department of pulmonology and infectious diseases, Fortis Hospital.

“These are people who are fine the rest of the year but get allergic reactions around this month mainly due to pollens in the air. Ideally, such people should visit a physician a month before the onset of summer so that they can be put on preventive medication,” he added.

The symptoms could be as mild as chest pain, nausea, prolonged cold and cough to the severe wheezing, shortness of breath and bronchitis. Some people experience occasional mild symptoms, but there are many who may experience frequent severe episodes.

The symptoms vary from person to person, and often depend on the age. In infants, a sign of allergy is slow feeding or shortness of breath while feeding. viral

Toddlers with asthma symptoms should avoid physical sports as it may fatigue them quickly and trigger exercise-induced coughing and wheezing.

In older children, a change in weather can trigger allergic reactions, which may cause coughing that worsens at night.

The sooner the treatment starts, the better are the chances of reducing flare-ups and controlling distressing symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing.

“The treatment is in two parts—an asthma attacks and maintenance or prevention therapy, using inhalers and tablets. Once the symptoms get better, the child needs to be put on preventive treatment that requires observation and to avoid triggering factors,” says Dr Nangia.

Young children who may develop asthma-like symptoms from certain types of viral infections, so they must be screened carefully. before being prescribed asthma medication, say doctors.

“Unless there are recurrent symptoms—at least three episodes of spasmodic cough unassociated with any viral infection — we don’t confirm asthma. It is called it hyperactive airway disease and most children don’t have asthma once they grow older,” said Dr Srikant Sharma, consultant, department of medicine, Moolchand Hospital.

While diagnosing the disease, history of the child and family is important, such as how does the cough start, when it is worse, exposure to what substance caused the cough and who in the family suffers from asthma.

Before the age of five, doctors prefer clinical examination and observe the child’s response to therapy as a means of diagnosis. For older children, there is pulmonary function test wherein a child is supposed to blow through a particular machine and readings recorded.

The best way to handle asthma is to control the symptoms by avoiding irritants.

“Delhi air is the biggest irritant and so are the dust mites inside the house. People should take measures such as going for wet-mopping and avoiding carpets. The material for curtains and sofas should be chosen such that doesn’t attract dust. Smoking is an absolute no,” said Dr Sharma.

It is also not advisable to have pets in a house, especially if there’s an asthmatic child around.

Though the condition is not curable, once the diagnosis is made it is important to control the symptoms by chalking out a treatment plan in consultation with the doctor that is best suited for the patient.

“Like diabetes or hypertension, asthma symptoms can be controlled with therapy. Inhaler is the first line of treatment and has less side-effects. As long as the symptoms stay under control, there is no need to worry,” said Dr Nangia.

ASTHMA ALERT

Rush to a hospital if a person is:

*Gasping for air

*Trying very hard to breathe

* Is having trouble in talking due to shortness of breath

* Is having fainting spell

* Turning blue

Prominent irritants

* Polluted air

*Smoke

*Dust

*Pollen

*Pets

* Additives in packaged food

*Change in weather