A week ago, Rekha Advani (44), an asthma patient, decided to discontinue using her inhaler, as she was feeling better.
But two days later, she woke up at 4.30 am, unable to breathe. Fortunately, being in the medical field, she had an oxygen cylinder and a Nebuliser — which helps administer the drug to the patient’s lungs if the patient can’t breathe — at home and managed to control the attack.
“I used to carry the inhaler with me and use it once a day in the morning as the doctor had instructed. When I started feeling better, I stopped carrying it. That’s when I got the attack. I was lucky this time,” said Advani, who works as an administrator in Tulips Women’s Healthcare Centre in Bandra.
However, not all are so lucky.
Doctors said that despite the increased risk due to high pollution levels in the city, many asthma patients were reluctant to use inhalers owing to myths. This, they said, has lead to an increase in the number of asthma attacks in the city.
“Many non-medical people spread myths such as that inhalers have steroids, cause weight gain, become addictive or lose their effect after some time,” said Dr Pramod Niphad-kar, consultant chest physician at Jaslok and Sir Hurkisondas Nurrottamdas hospitals.
“This, coupled with the patient’s inhibitions about letting others know that they have a permanent illness, deters them from using inhalers and results in an attack.”
According to doctors, an inhaler is more efficient at treating the patient than tablets, which patients prefer.
“The inhaler gets the medicine to the lungs in the most efficient manner, unlike a tablet or an injection, which have to go through the bloodstream, kidneys and the heart and then reach the lungs. It causes no side effects and is crucial for an asthma patient,” said Dr Sameer Nanavare, consultant chest physician at Masina and Saifee hospitals.
Dr A.G. Ballani, chest physician at Lilavati Hospital, who treated Advani said that it was important for doctors to counsel their patients. “Even if patients are reluctant to use the inhaler, they use it if the doctor explains the benefits of the treatment,” said Ballani.