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Helping Children To Control Asthma


Asthma patient

Asthma patient receiving treatment

SHE was comely and intelligent. Wanting to make the best out of her youthful life, she pursued her education doggedly.

She was already succeeding. But at the age of 16, that same age 16 when women are said to be sweetest in beauty and looks, Miss Oluwakemi Jaiyesimi died, just as it was remaining all but one paper in her West Africa School Certificate Examination (WASCE).

The ‘assassin’ who carried out that wicked act 14 years ago, is none than that wheezing condition called asthma.

Although saddened by the ugly situation, Oluwakemi’s younger sister, Oyindamola Jaiyesimi, believes that the Oluwakemi narrative must not be allowed to die but must be used to as a platform to educate children and young persons living with asthma.

Such reasoning provoked her to establish Oluwakemi Memorial Foundation in 2009 with the vision of minimising the sufferings of children living with the under-diagnosed and under-treated asthma.

And this year, the foundation was not missing when it was time to mark World Asthma Day on May 5. As part of the activities, the foundation organised inter-school competition on drama, art and poetry among Vivian Fowler Memorial College For Girls, Doseg International School, Aunty Ayo International School and Chrisland International School (all based in Lagos) recently to drive home the message of this year’s World Asthma Day theme: ‘You Can Control Your Asthma’.

Asthma is a chronic disease characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swells, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), although the causes of asthma are not completely understood, the risk factors for developing asthma include inhaling asthma “triggers”, such as allergens, tobacco smoke and chemical irritants. WHO adds that although asthma cannot be cured, with appropriate management, it can be controlled for people to live quality lives.

Oyindamola, who is the chairman of the Oluwakemi Memorial Foundation, said although asthma was on the increase, knowledge about the medical condition, even among those living with the disorder, was becoming too scanty for comfort.

She believes that if the participants of the competition would spread the message of how to control asthma to their friends, relatives and acquaintance, the mortality rates from the non-communicable disease would not only drop, but also those living with the condition would be assisted to live quality lives.

The students, drawn from upper classes in secondary schools, did not disappoint their audience. With heart- rending messages rendered in poems, art and dramatic performances, they drove home the message on triggers of asthma and how to control the genetic disorder.

Asthma is a major cause of chronic morbidity and mortality through out the world. The prevalence of asthma symptoms in children varies from one to more than 30 percent and is increasing in most countries, especially among young children. WHO estimates that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma globally, adding that 80 per cent of asthma-related deaths occur in low and lower-middle income countries.

The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways, such as: indoor allergens (like house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander), outdoor allergens (such as pollens and moulds), tobacco smoke, chemical irritants in the workplace and air pollution.

Other triggers can include cold air, extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear, and physical exercise.

Guest lecturer at the event and public health practitioner with the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Dr Adeola Ekundayo, listed the symptoms of asthma to include coughing (especially at night), wheezing, and shortness of breath, chest tightness, pain, or pressure.

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