Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which is manifested by attacks characterized by significant breathing difficulty. These attacks are caused by triggering factors, variable depending on the patient. Caused by a hereditary factor, asthma is a frequent disease (2% to 5% of the population), particularly in children. Its prevalence has increased regularly over the last 20 years. Early diagnosis, treatment of symptoms, and careful monitoring make it possible to properly control the disease.
Asthma attacks may occur occasionally or several times in the same day. Attacks often occur at night and generally begin with a dry cough, rapidly followed by other symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, feeling of pressure in the chest, expectoration. Not always having the same intensity, asthma attacks may stop spontaneously in a few minutes or worsen and lead to respiratory insufficiency.
An asthma attack is an abnormal reaction of the bronchial tubes to different triggering factors. Asthmatics may be sensitive to one or several factors, with a different sensitivity to each one of them.
Asthma attacks are treated using bronchodilators, drugs that act quickly by relaxing the muscles of the bronchial tubes. The treatments for attacks are generally associated with a basic treatment, based on corticosteroids, whose long-term goal is to eliminate the chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Some drugs are administered directly into the airways, using an inhaler, while others are delivered orally, in tablet form. Some serious attacks may require temporary hospitalization and recourse to artificial oxygenation.
Although physical effort is an asthma-triggering factor, the regular practice of a sport is not contraindicated for an asthmatic. Several minutes of warm-up and the use of a bronchodilator before the effort generally make it possible to avoid the triggering of an attack. While swimming is particularly recommended, it is nevertheless preferable to consult a doctor before practicing certain endurance sports, a high-altitude activity or scuba diving.