There is a significant need in SA for education around respiratory conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis. This according to Dr Shaunagh Emanuel, honorary secretary of the Allergy Society of SA (ALLSA). Dr Emanuel notes that respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are more prevalent in adults and children with allergies.

Patient education should play a central part in treating asthma in both adults and children.

“What happens during an asthma attack, much in the same way as in allergic rhinitis, is that the mucous membranes that line the airways may become inflamed as a reaction to outside irritants, such as pollen or house dust mite. This causes an over production of mucus and a constriction of the airways. This in turn results in the sneezes, wheezes, and coughs that are experienced with allergic rhinitis and asthma.”

Dr Emanuel points out that while allergic rhinitis may not be life threatening, asthma attacks can endanger an individual’s life. “This is why patient education should play a central part in treating this condition in both adults and children. If patients understand what their condition is, why they are taking a specific medication, and how to use their medication properly, they will be able to manage their symptoms more effectively.”

Celeste Fouche, Cipla OTC Marketing Manager, notes that respiratory conditions should not prevent sufferers from living normal lives. “If the education about medication and the management of their condition is done correctly, these individuals can lead a good quality life due to the current advancements in treatments.” Fouche adds this is especially true for children who suffer from these conditions.

“Parents should be encouraged to enable their children to take part in normal, day-to-day activities and to be as independent as possible. This can be achieved through education and awareness. As the child gets older, they should be taught more about their condition so that they know what to do in case of an attack, such as what medicine to take and how to take them correctly.”

Dr Emanuel adds that, in most cases, allergic rhinitis and asthma cannot be cured. “The symptoms of these conditions fluctuate throughout the lifetime of the individual, depending on a variety of factors, for example seasons, weather conditions, or life stages. As a result, proper education will always be an important part of treating these conditions. Patients who experience a resurgence of symptoms have to know what to do when they once again need to start managing their conditions.”