Home Health An Overview of Asthma and...

An Overview of Asthma and How to Provide Help for Patients in Nigeria

In Nigeria today, one major rising health concern is the common breathing condition known as asthma. Recent research shows that the rise of this disease condition has become a cause of concern.

According to the Medical Association of Nigeria, the prevalence has risen to about 7%-18% of the entire country’s population. This means that for every ten persons found in an area, you would find at least 3-4 persons having bronchial asthma.

This has become a significant concern of the health association of the country because, for every rise of the country’s population, there is a corresponding increase in the chances of developing bronchial asthma as well.

You may ask, what is bronchial asthma and what causes it? Well, bronchial asthma or as we like to all call it asthma is simply a condition that results in the inflammation or swelling of the person’s breathing pathway and as such produces mucous therefore making breathing quite difficult for the patient.

This problem can be seen as a long-lasting problem, and this means that there are days the patient will not be able to breathe properly. In Nigeria, there are lots of challenging circumstances that tend to increase the risk of getting the attack for a sufferer.

These circumstances include lack of appropriate diagnoses, improper treatment plan, lack of adequate follow-up and outpatient treatment, the hike in the prices of drugs and Medications, lack of inadequate information as to the best way possible to avoid the attack. All these factors have all contributed to the rising increase in the possibility of getting an attack as a patient as well as increasing one’s chances of becoming asthmatic.

These circumstances have also brought about the failure of medical personnel to properly arrest the control of the symptoms, as well as help in the prevention of the continued decline in asthma cases in the country.

How is bronchial asthma developed?

Most times, bronchial asthma is developed during childhood, and it runs throughout the patient’s lifetime. In some cases though, others develop it at a later age, and there is also the possibility of transferring it to a close family member who may be susceptible to having the diseases.

Others may not have asthma. They may simply have what is known as allergies and irritations.

Causes of bronchial asthma:

Majority of people develop asthma due to some unknown causes. However, there are factors that can contribute to the swelling of the Airways and as such increase the severity of the attack or trigger the attack in itself.

Often this attack occurs when the Airways becomes narrower due to the severity of the inflammation. This means that as the swelling grows more prominent, the airways become tighter and the more difficult it is for the patient to breathe. And as a result of this, the patient begins to experience wheezing, and as such, the struggle to breathe ensures.

Another major cause of asthma in Nigeria that cannot be overlooked or overemphasized is the inhalation of smoke through cigarettes. People who do smoke cigarettes, tobacco or any other form of bad air have been seen to be at a higher risk.

People who don’t smoke cigarettes but always love to stay around those who do are also at risk of developing asthma. Such people who are known as passive smokers inhale too much carbon and as such begin to have inflammations and hence the development of asthma.

Asides the inhalation of smoke, another factor that contributes to asthma most especially in Nigeria is the issue of obesity. Believe it or not, people who are obese are at severe risk. When a person is obese, the fat tends to build up in all the wrong places, ranging from the heart walls, down to even the breathing airways.

Once this occurs, mucus also will tend to build up, and once this fat buildup solidifies, it becomes a plaque, and this causes the breathing pathway to becoming narrower and as such become more difficult for the person to breathe hence the development of asthma.

Signs and symptoms

Many people in Nigeria often do not realise when a patient begins to have an attack. The majority don’t understand the symptoms and as such may not know the onset of the signs and often wait till the patient begins to struggle to breathe before helping out.

The following are signs and symptoms that one must notice and understand.

  1. Shortness of breath which will inevitably lead to the person struggling to breathe. It may start mild in some cases and gradually progress to something really severe if care and help isn’t gotten. In this case, you will notice that the patient is wheezing and taking sharp short breathes. By this, you would know that the patient is about to have another attack.
  2. Gasping: when the patient begins to gasp or pant, the case is gradually leaving a mild state and as such the patient needs help as soon as possible.
  3. The tightness of the chest muscles
  4. Wheezing
  5. In severe cases, blue colouration of the lips and eventually the fingernails and toenails which invariably signifies that the organs are being deprived of oxygen and as such, if help isn’t provided at this time, the patient may pass out or faint and eventually die.

If you notice the patient is suffering from an asthma attack, first make sure you call the medical emergency centre number, and while you wait, you can do the following to help the patient

  1. Get the person away from the trigger as fast as possible. Be it excess smoke, dust and the likes, just ensure that the patient is gotten to an environment where he or she can breathe in the clean, fresh air.
  2. Ensure the person is in an upright position, preferably an upright sitting position. If the person has any tightly fitted cloth, loosen it to ensure every available passage of air is open. Also, make sure that the sufferer is comfortable and relaxed.
  3. Try instructing the patient to take long deep breathes and you may even contribute by teaching with your breathing.
  4. If the breathing appears not to calm down, then try looking for the patient’s inhaler. Help the patient use it and also stay calm.

There are so many triggers that majority of sufferers face most especially in Nigeria, ranging from the amount of smoke inhaled in traffic from vehicles with bad combustion engines, smoke from generators, dust especially on untarred roads and so much more.

In as much as we have these much triggers around us as the day goes by, we can, therefore, help each other out especially when we notice our neighbour in difficulty.


Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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