Imagine if you were underwater and only had a small straw for breathing air. As you try to breathe in, you know that you need much more air than the straw will allow, and you start to panic. There’s not enough air. Or worse, there is enough air – but you can’t get as much as you need. That is what it is like to have asthma.
More people in the UK are diagnosed with asthma each year than there are weddings in this country, according to the charity Asthma UK. They are committed to educating people about this disease so that everyone can get the help they need.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. The bronchioles, or passageways in the lungs, are generally inflamed and irritated in an asthmatic’s body. Because those with asthma are more sensitive to their environments, triggers such as smoke or animal hair can send them into an acute attack. During such an attack, the smooth muscles around the bronchioles tense up and squeeze those airways, making them even more narrow than usual. That results in an unbearable difficulty to breathe.
Symptoms generally include wheezing, coughing (especially at night) and the feeling of tightness and burning in the chest. During a full blown asthma attack, a person will feel as if they cannot breathe, and start gasping and wheezing until the attack passes. In extreme cases, a tube is inserted into the airway so that a person can receive oxygen more quickly.
There is no cure for asthma, so it must be controlled with inhalers and other medication when necessary. If asthma is not properly cared for, it can cause long-term lung damage which can ultimately result in emphysema, another respiratory disease. Even worse, poorly treated asthma can lead to heart problems, since the lungs and heart work so closely together.
There are many triggers which could be responsible for an attack, but asthma is an individual disease. What bothers one person may not bother another, and there are some people with asthma who never have a major asthma attack. That is why it is so important for people to be diagnosed properly and receive adequate care. Asthma UK is committed to that cause in a number of ways.
The Asthma UK site is optimized for those with asthma questions. Across the top of the page, you can click on a specific issue, or you can browse their site. Their “Advice For You” section offers suggestions about how to handle asthma, if you have it. There are articles about what to tell friends, how to craft an action plan, and tips for dealing with asthma on a day to day basis. The Knowledge Bank holds articles and checklists for medications and treatments, frequently asked questions, fact files and general health news.
They also have a nurse specialist phone advice line that anyone can call and they can answer questions in over 100 languages. While calling charges might apply if you are not calling from a BT landline, the advice line is funded mostly through charity contributions. Therefore, you do not have to worry that you will be charged for the service itself. You can call about any asthma-related issue, no matter how serious or trivial you think it might be. Calling hours are from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They also host online forums are open at all times to anyone who wants to talk about asthma, medication, coping skills and other topics.
Asthma UK wants everyone with asthma to get the help they need, wherever they are in the UK. In Wales, they take care to publish information in both Welsh in English, and they have offices throughout the UK to cater to the specific needs of people in the area.
This past 7 May, Asthma UK launched their “Compare Your Care” initiative, urging people to speak out about the asthma care they were receiving, so that they can make sure that everyone is getting equal, good quality treatment for this disease.
Asthma UK keeps people informed via their regularly updated news blog and their Facebook and Twitter pages. Neil Churchill, CEO of Asthma UK, also blogs about asthma and other issues.
Not only does Asthma UK educate asthma patients and the general public, the charity invests millions of pounds into asthma research. Research can help to develop new medications, and Asthma UK even hopes one day to find a cure for the disease.
Getting involved with Asthma UK is easy because there is something everyone can do. If you enjoy games, you can play scratch cards to benefit the charity. Every week, for one pound, you can enter the Asthma UK weekly lottery. You’ll be eligible for 100 cash prizes, and one of those prizes is 1000 pounds. You can also enter a raffle this summer, and if you call 0800 121 62 55 you can sign up for tickets, which each cost a pound. You will be eligible to win a cruise, a holiday in Portugal, cash or other prizes.
If you want to get even more involved, there are a number of fantastic ways to help Asthma UK both in the UK and around the world. Are you a cyclist? There are multiple rides you can take place in. The next big event is in Annecy, France on 7 July 2013, Asthma UK is holding their Etape du France. If you are a runner, Asthma UK has marathons, half-marathons and adventure runs throughout the year. For the truly adventurous, there are even open swim events, mountain climbing events and a tandem skydive event.
Not a sportsman? Asthma UK also hosts social events as well. Their annual Breathtaking Ball was held on 13 June and featured a champagne reception and gourmet dinner. They hold a gift fair, a house and garden fair, and in September plan to host their Hollywood Bowl, a black-tie event held in a club with live music and a DJ.
Start getting involved with Asthma UK by heading over to their Facebook page, following them on Twitter as @asthmauk or go directly to their site at http://www.asthma.org.uk