No fewer than 6 million Nigerians, mostly children, are asthmatic as the disease remains the commonest chronic disorder in childhood, says a Federal Ministry of Health report.

The National Coordinator, Non- Communicable Diseases Control Programme (NCDs), Mrs. Sherifat Abari, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that asthma was also fast becoming increasingly associated with sudden deaths in adults.

Abari disclosed that the report was based on hospital records available to the ministry.

“There are no community-based data on the prevalence of asthma in the country, except the hospital based data; it is from this data that the ministry got its statistics on asthma,’’ she said.

She also stressed the need for a general awareness of the disease, saying that asthma was a chronic disease of the airways, which the public needed to know its symptoms and complications.

The NCD Coordinator said:  “Asthma attacks have episodes like shortness of breath, sneezing, tightness of the chest and cough, with various other degrees of complications.’’

“The Department is raising the awareness of the public concerning asthmatic attacks, so they can know the signs and symptoms of the disease.

“Someone could slum and die without knowing that he or she is asthmatic,’’ she explained.

“This is because by itself, it could go off once the triggers are not there.

“ Triggers like pollution, allergies, cuttings, cooking oil, food stuff depending on individuals, tobacco smoke and anxiety in some people could trigger asthma,’’ she said.

She said the ministry was more concerned with the prevention of asthma than its treatment.

She advised those with symptoms of the disease to seek medical attention for adequate care.

She said some of the patients did not have enough knowledge of the disease and by the time they became aware, it was usually too late.

“The Federal Government is advocating for awareness creation, so that members of the community and health personnel would be able to identify the disease for prompt referral,’’ she said.

Mr. Matthew Madu, an asthma patient, told NAN that medical personnel in the country required adequate training to handle asthmatic patients.

He said some medical workers usually got confused when they are confronted with asthma, especially in children.

“Even in adults, some of them sometimes make wrong diagnosis, this may be due to lack of diagnostic equipment for proper analysis.

“Proper training will enable them know the symptoms and which tests to recommend for the patients with such symptoms,’’ Madu said.

The International Primary Care Airways Group (IPAG), a U.S.-based NGO, in its report, said chronic airways diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and allergic rhinitis were a huge source of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

The report also said that unlike most other categories of diseases which were decreasing in prevalence, chronic airways diseases were on the increase.

It also said there was need for more attention and better care of the diseases. (NAN)