You Can Control Your Asthma | Western Cape Government


You Can Control Your Asthma

2 May 2017

Take a breath, breath in, breath out.  Think about it for a moment, breathing takes place automatically and without effort.  This is the case for most people, but for Asthma sufferers breathing is never taken for granted.

The 2nd of May is International Asthma awareness day.  This condition which affects the person’s ability to breathe easily is one of the highest causes of chronic illness in South Africa.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition that affects the airways, which are the small tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs. When these tubes become irritated, the muscles around them constrict or tighten which causes the airways to become inflamed and swollen, the mucous cant drain away and then builds up in the passages.

All these factors cause the symptoms commonly associated with asthma; these are wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.  For many sufferers, these symptoms occur early in the morning or in the night. Although a wheeze is often associated with Asthma, it is often not present during the initial consultation.   There are normally a number of associated conditions that tend to go hand in hand with chronic asthma, such as allergic rhinitis, eczema and eye infections as results of allergies (allergic conjunctivitis).

Asthma often has its onset in children or young adults and is associated with allergies. In many patients there is a familial link.

In older patients, normally 40 years and older, Asthma is often confused or complicated by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).  COPD is a lung-related illness that progresses over a period of time and is usually, but not exclusively associated with smoking or miners.

There are two major groups of treatments; both are administered by the use of an inhaler.  The secret to successful treatment is to take the prescribed medication exactly as instructed and to use the inhaler correctly; sometimes a spacer will be given with the inhaler so that it is easily used.  One form of treatment are known as ‘relievers’, these relax the airways and allow for easier breathing; these are normally used during an acute episode.  Virtually all patients diagnosed with Asthma will be prescribed a ‘reliever’ to use as part of their treatment; to give readers an idea of the prevalence of Asthma,  53 060 inhalers were distributed during 2016 to patients visiting Western Cape Government Health Clinics in the Cape Winelands alone. This is an average of 4 421 inhalers per month!

The second forms are known as ‘controllers’, these help to control the symptoms of asthma. 


  • Do not swop your pills with someone else
  • Take your pills every day at the correct time
  • Store your medication in a cool, dry, safe place
  • Keep a list of your medication
  • Tell your Pharmacist what medication you are on,  if he/she gives you other medication
  • Know about the SIDE EFFECTS of your medication and your ALLERGIES


Avoidance of triggers wherever possible helps to minimise asthma severity and reduces asthma exacerbations. Practical measures include:

Avoid drugs that aggravate asthma such as beta blockers (including in eye drops), and aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Just as each person has certain things that cause them to become irritated, so too does asthma. That which triggers (starts), asthma in one person, may not trigger it in another. There is however some common causes these include:

  • House dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Cigarettes and cigarette smoke
  • Animal hair or feathers
  • Plant, grass or tree Pollen
  • Mould
  • Chemicals,  dust  or fumes
  • Certain foods and some medicines
  • Exercise – Asthma sufferers must make sure to use their Asthma inhaler (pump, reliever) 15 – 30 mins before exercise.  Swimming and brisk walking are goof forms of exercise for asthma sufferers.
  • Viral infections, such as colds and ‘flu
  • Emotional upsets and stress
  • Cold weather
Media Enquiries: 

Jo-Anne Otto
Principal Communications Officer: Cape Winelands District
Western Cape Government Health
Tel: +27 23 348 8100
Cell: 072 8080 106