Living a normal life with asthma

30 October 2007

Rohan playing on a swing
WHO/Marko Kokic

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. It is the most common chronic disease among children and currently affects 235 million people. Although asthma cannot be cured, appropriate management can control the disease and enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.

This is the story of 10-year-old Rohan Pankaj, who leads a normal life despite having asthma since the age of three. Originally from India but now living in Geneva, Switzerland, he enjoys all the activities typical of a boy his age. His doctors and mother, Pankaj, taught him how to control his asthma.

Rohan using an inhaler
WHO/Marko Kokic

Rohan was living in India when he was diagnosed with asthma. His mother was shocked. She knew nothing about the disease. She attributes his asthma to air pollution and says it is triggered quite easily by dust, cold, and pollution. When living in India, Pankaj tried to protect Rohan from pollution by keeping him indoors.

Doctors have helped Rohan and his mother learn how to control his asthma. Fortunately, Rohan's mother can afford the medication that helps her son breathe freely. However, in low- to middle-income countries, many people cannot afford treatment.

Rohan running
WHO/Marko Kokic

With an inhaler and an action plan, Rohan now knows what to do when he feels an attack coming. Quick relief medication controls Rohan's symptoms. He doesn't need continuous treatment because his symptoms are intermittent rather than persistent. His asthma attacks have become less frequent, from once every three or four months to only about twice a year.

Now 10, Rohan currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. He enjoys all the activities typical of a boy his age. He loves to skateboard and swim. "Asthma doesn't mean that you can't live a normal life," his mother says. She believes her son is not restricted in any way by his asthma now that he has learned how to treat his symptoms.

Rohan leads a full and healthy life because his illness was detected early. Thanks to the help of a paediatrician, he now knows what he has to do when he has asthma symptoms. This is not the case for millions of children who are living with undiagnosed and untreated asthma. To effectively control asthma, medications must be affordable and available, especially to low-income families.

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