| SEE: These medical words are so difficult, even we can’t pronounce them

Have you ever found yourself sitting in your doctor’s room listening to him or her rambling off medical terminology and you have absolutely no idea what you are suffering from?

“You are suffering from Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia,” he says in a concerned tone.

“What? I am suffering from a rare condition that turns my spine into a growing tree?!” you wonder panicky. | 7 ways to help your child avoid asthma

Asthma is a lung disease that tends to start in childhood.

During an asthma attack the flow of air out of the lungs is limited by obstruction, caused by a narrowing or constriction of the airways through smooth muscle constriction and swelling of the linings of the airways.

Asthma runs in families

About 300 million people worldwide are affected by asthma, and according to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) South Africa has the world’s fourth highest asthma death rate among five- to 35-year-olds. Of the estimated 3.9 million South Africans with asthma, 1.5% die as a result of this condition every year.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology points out that asthma tends to run in families (about 60% of cases are hereditary), making children where one or both parents are affected more likely to develop asthma.

Steer clear of triggers

Although asthma most commonly develops in early childhood, a significant percentage of sufferers have their first attack during adulthood. This is known as adult-onset asthma (AOA). 

It is impossible to predict when asthma will strike, and the best course of action is to stay clear of so-called triggers. A trigger is anything that causes inflammation in the airways, leading to asthma symptoms.

The following precautions may delay or even prevent asthma from manifesting in children:

1. Avoid dust mites. Dust mites are tiny insects that feed off human skin and hair and are one of the most common asthma triggers. They tend to live in beds, carpeting, upholstered furniture and soft toys. Dust mites can be killed by steam cleaning mattresses and furniture and washing clothes, toys and bedding at temperatures higher than 55°C.


2. Restrict contact with pets. According to KidsHealth at least 30% of people with asthma are allergic to animals. It’s however not your pet’s fur that’s to blame. The problem is the body’s reaction to a protein found in the animal’s dander (dead skin flakes), saliva, urine and feathers. If you have a pet, limit your child’s exposure to the animal.


3. Maintain a normal weight. A 2012 study found that children who are obese are at an increased risk for developing asthma. There may be more than one reason why obesity increases asthma risk. It is thought that being overweight causes inflammation, which is a risk factor for asthma. 


4. Minimise stress. People who are under stress tend to have higher asthma rates. Asthma UK reports that up to 69% of asthmatics regard stress as an asthma trigger. Stress causes the so-called “fight or flight” response in our bodies, involving a surge of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This leads to among other things shallow and fast breathing, which puts us at a higher risk of asthma symptoms like tight chest and coughing.


5. Avoid tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers. Although they might not smoke themselves, many young children are exposed to secondhand smoke, either from a burning cigarette or when exhaled by a smoker. 


6. Breastfeed your child. Lung infections commonly trigger asthma. Because breastfeeding strengthens a child’s immune system, it might help to avoid lung infections and subsequent asthma attacks.


7. Avoid stress, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy. Studies have shown that a healthy mother will give birth to a healthy baby, and avoiding unhealthy foods and habits will increase the chances of having an allergy- and asthma-free baby.


Read more:

Asthma emergency

Breastfeeding protects against asthma

Debunking asthma myths | How stress affects your body

These days we’re constantly on the go and we’re constantly “switched on”.

We access our emails from our phones in the evenings and over weekends, we have multiple conversations across different programmes (Skype, WhatsApp) and every time someone likes a Facebook post or Instagram photo our phones ping with an alert.

There is never any down time!

“A constant demand to be switched on and perform not only results in the experience of stress but also exhausts your energy supplies and actually leads to impaired performance over time,” says clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde. 

“Think about why your smart phone switches to hibernate mode, why your car idles at the red light. It’s not functional or efficient to be switched on all the time.”  

3 ways stress affects your body

1. Relationships, especially the more intimate ones, tend to suffer when the demands of work or life become too much to handle.

2. Mood shifts occur when there is chronic stress, especially if it is inescapable, for example in a challenging economic situation.

3. Stress also causes behavioural changes that can affect sleep patterns. You cannot fall asleep or stay asleep due to a busy mind, or you’re waking in the early hours and unable to return to sleep. You may find you are unable to get going without excessive stimulants like caffeine or sugar. Stress can also cause you to sleep too much, often as an escape from having to deal with your reality.

Learn to fight stress

“Stress is about a relationship between demands and resources,” explains Dr Linde. “When you know a demand is coming, for example a deadline or a difficult conversation; or you’re experiencing a clear stressor, for example being sick, taking part in an argument, or having lost something, the best response is to find a resource to help you cope with the additional demand.” 

Dr Linde suggests taking time off for a nap, finding a mediator who can help with the conflict or delegating (and asking) for help on a project.

Next, take stock of your demands and resources. Identify where your good resources are and keep them close. Replace any “fake” resources (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, excessive sleep or procrastination) with healthy (functional) ones. 

Dr Linde’s quick fixes are:

1. Name it: Awareness is the first step in knowing what the problem is.
2. Take a mini break: You need to take a break every hour, even if it’s just walking around the space you’re in. Set an alarm if you need to. 
3. Rest your eyes: Give your eyes a one-minute break. 
4. Check for dehydration: Symptoms of dehydration can feel like stress and low mood, check when last you had water.
5. Exercise: Combine exercise with playtime (with children or pets), or combine walking or gym and chat time (with friend or partner).  
6. Make time: Consciously schedule times throughout the week to work, rest and play.

Dr Colinda Linde, quote

Know when to ask for help 

“It’s about quality of life,” says Dr Linde. “When demands outweigh resources for too long, you’ll find that you’re simply going through the motions every day and wishing your life away (until the weekend). You’re living in grey without colour or meaning to your day.”

She also warns of destructive self-harm behaviour: abusing alcohol to sleep, needing several coffees to get going; reliance on over-the-counter medications, inability to make decisions or complete tasks, inability to focus and inability to regulate your emotions. 

“You may also experience impulsive behaviour like overspending, over-eating, gambling, driving too fast, booking a holiday you can’t afford or shouldn’t be taking, all just to escape the stressful environment. Unfortunately, stress comes with you, and the quick fix of buying now doesn’t last, plus it can cause additional problems – and stress – if you don’t have the money.” 

If any of these symptoms or behaviours last for two weeks or more, you may need help. “Contact SADAG, your GP or even a homeopath,” urges Dr Linde. “If you start having thoughts of self-harm or suicide – ‘I could just drive into this wall, then I don’t have to deal with anything anymore’ – please seek help urgently.”

Practical help
Dr Linde runs a practical workshop where you can learn practical and simple methods for dealing with stress. “Stress is part of life, it cannot be avoided,” she says. “You need to learn how to ride the wave.” 

Visit her website for more information about the workshop. 

Read more:

Booze-free ways to destress

Could reducing your stress levels help you lose weight?

13 hidden signs of stress