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What is asthma?

Atopic eczema is a common, chronic, itchy skin rash that tends to affect people with other allergies like hay fever and asthma (see atopic eczema).

Wet wraps or wet dressing is used to treat severe atopic eczema or severe flares. They can also be used to prevent itching, especially at night and to avoid using steroids if applied early enough in a flare-up. Wet wraps can be easily applied at home after you have been taught how to use them.

  • Use aqueous cream, paraffin oil or an emollient as a soap substitute.
  • Use an emollient every day … as often as is possible, to keep the skin moist.
  • Steroid ointments must be used when there is a flare. During a flare the skin is being damaged by the eczema and the steroid ointment will prevent that damage.
  • Once a flare is under control a lower strength ointment should be used and then slowly reduced until it can be stopped and just the emollient continued.
  • Wet wraps can be done with steroid ointments and emollients during a flare and with the emollient alone when the skin is not flaring.
  • Wet wraps can be done with commercially available cotton clothes, or with home-made wraps made from stockinette bandage.
What Causes Asthma?

The exact cause of asthma isn’t known. Genetic and environmental factors combine to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:

  • An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (pronounced ate-o-pee) (see what is an allergy)
  • Parents who have asthma
  • Parents who smoke during pregnancy and after childbirth
  • Certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Contact with allergens or exposure to virus infections early in life when the immune system is developing
Who Is at Risk for Asthma?
  • Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In South Africa approximately 20 % of children and 10% of adults have asthma. Asthma is the commonest chronic disease of childhood.
  • Young children who have wheezing symptoms often, with virus infections and also without virus infections are the most likely to have asthma that continues beyond 6 years of age. The other risk factors include having allergies, eczema, or parents who have asthma.
  • Among children, more boys have asthma than girls. But among adults, more women have the disease than men! It’s not clear whether or how sex and sex hormones play a role in causing asthma.
  • Most, but not all, people who have asthma have allergies.
  • Some people develop asthma because of contact with chemicals or dusts in their workplace. This type of asthma is called occupational asthma.
How can asthma be cured?

You can’t cure asthma. However, you can take steps to control the disease and prevent its symptoms. For example:

  • Learn about your asthma and ways to control it
  • Follow your written asthma action plan
  • Use medicines as your doctor prescribes (Here’s how to use your inhaler device)
  • Identify and try to avoid things that make your asthma worse
  • Keep track of your asthma symptoms and level of control
  • Get regular checkups for your asthma
Download our “What is asthma” leaflet for free