World Asthma Day: How sunlight reduces asthma
World Asthma Day is commemorated annually on the first Tuesday of May by Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to spread awareness about it. This year, GINA is organizing activities across the globe around the theme, “You Can Control Your Asthma”.
With this year’s theme in mind, healthcare professionals explain how Vitamin D (from sunlight) can help control symptoms of severe asthma. “Since asthma patients have a very low immunity and also tend to have a Vitamin D deficiency, exposure to sunlight helps to strengthen their immunity,” Vivek Nangia, director and head, pulmonary, Fortis hospital, told IANS.
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the air passages in the lungs. Vitamin D helps in reducing the inflammation. A new study by a team of scientists at King’s College London also revealed the fact that Vitamin D, which is made by the body in sunlight, calms an “overactive” part of the immune system in asthma.
This new study examines the role of molecules that cause this malfunctioning of the immune response. “The research examined whether Vitamin D had an effect on the levels of the molecule produced by white blood cells in a laboratory experiment. It was found that Vitamin D reduced the levels of the specific harming molecules produced by cells from people with asthma,” Neeraj Gupta, senior consultant pulmonology Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon told IANS.
Gupta said, “Patients treated for asthma are on inhaled corticosteroids – ICS. The ICS have side effects – they reduce the levels of Vitamin D in the body, hence all doctors treating asthma give vitamin D supplements to the patients.”
As the study is under clinical trial, once completed the experts are hopeful that the sunshine vitamin will work for treating asthma which has been on a rise in the country. “With pollution levels continuing to rise, there has been a 20 to 30 percent increase in asthma cases in our country,” said Nangia.
Kailash Nath, consultant pulmonology, Columbia Asia Hospital, said that pollution has no direct link to asthma but the pollutants present in the air like diesel fumes and suspended particulate matter have led to increase in symptoms of asthma.
“Asthma can be controlled with proper medication on time. Inhalers are the best form of treatment for asthma. Timely vaccination for flu and pneumoccal vaccination help prevent viral and bacterial infections,” added Nath.Children are found to be the most affected with this chronic disease. “There has been a substantial rise in asthma among children, so it is important that parents give children inhalers, as this helps in controlling asthma,” Manav Manchanda, consultant pulmonologist and critical medicine, Asian Institue of Medical Sciences, told IANS.Experts say that a lot of myths are associated with the use of inhaler because parents believe that they are not good for kids as they contain steroids and other drugs that can stunt their growth. “Though inhalers are important, but it is not the last resort. Inhalers are usually given for immediate and emergency use,” added Manchanda.
Experts also pointed out that many people are not even aware that the problem can be controlled. “Asthma is controllable but not curable. Patients suffering from asthma can only control this problem. They have to make lifestyle modifications and have to religiously follow the medication routine,” added Manchanda.