Ventolin, Asthma and The Respiratory System by luke moffatt

THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

The respiratory system is responsible for taking in oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Oxygen is vital for life and without it cells begin to die after 4 minutes.

  • Air travels through the mouth, nose and into the trachea which then branches into the left and right bronchi.
  • The bronchial tubes are lined with cilia. They are tiny hairs which move the mucus up and out of the lungs. Mucus collects dust, germs and other substances that have entered the lungs.
  • The bronchial tubes lead to the lungs and enter the small spongy sacks called alveoli. This is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs.
  • The red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of the body where it is needed. In this process the red blood cells gather carbon dioxide from the body. This is then taken back to the lungs to be removed from the body.
Fig 1: Normal Respiratory System

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic illness that affects your lungs. It affects people of all ages for which there is no cure. It can be well managed when you work with your health professional.

Asthma is a condition in which the airways narrow, swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

The things that trigger asthma can include air pollution, smoking, chemical fumes, infections, pollens, foods, cold air, exercise and medications.

The Effects of Asthma On The AirWays

Asthma can cause three principal changes to the airways in the lungs. These can simultaneously occur.

  • The thin layer of muscle within the wall of the airway contracts to make it narrower and tighter.
  • The inside walls of the airways become swollen leaving less space in the airway.
  • There is an significant increase in mucus inside the airways.

This results in an inflamed, tight and narrowed airway which makes it difficult to breathe.

Fig2: Normal and during asthma symptoms

Ventolin

(generic name: Salbutamol)

Ventolin is an inhaled medication that is used to treat acute asthma symptoms. This was developed in the 1960's. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways which become tight in asthma. This medication starts to work within a few minutes and can last between 3-5 hours. Ventolin acts as a reliever not a preventer. The second type of medication to treat asthma is called inhaled corticosteroids which are taken to prevent asthma. The success rate of this medication is very good when used appropriately.

Fig 3: This is a diagram of how the Ventolin should be used.

Ethical Issues

The ethical issues of this medicine are:

  • Prior to 2008 ventolin inhalers contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are harmful to our environment because they decrease the protective ozone layer above the Earth. This was part of an international agreement called the "Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer".
  • Ventolin became available at the pharmacy without a prescription in 2015. The advantages of this is that if you desperately need ventolin as an emergency medication you are able to access it without seeing a doctor. The disadvantage of this is that you are relying on the pharmacist for medical directions which they may or may not provide.
  • Multiple studies have linked the over use of Ventolin in the treatment of asthma attacks with the increasing risk of hospitalisation and death. One of the reasons for this was that they weren't seeking the right medication to treat the other mechanisms of asthma. As Ventolin is available over the counter without seeing a doctor this can lead to asthma being poorly treated.

References

"Asthma - Mayo Clinic". Mayo Clinic. N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/definition/con-20026992?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=abstract&utm_content=Asthma&utm_campaign=Knowledge-panels

Johnston SL, Edwards MR Mechanisms of adverse effects of β-agonists in asthma Thorax 2009;64:739-741. http://thorax.bmj.com/content/64/9/739

Science, Live. "Asthma: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment". Live Science. N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.http://www.livescience.com/41264-asthma-symptoms-treatment.html

Science, Live. "Respiratory System: Facts, Function And Diseases". Live Science. N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.http://www.livescience.com/22616-respiratory-system.html

"The National Asthma Council Australia". Nationalasthma.org.au. N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/understanding-asthma/what-is-asthma?x_cw_context_provider=safari

N.p., 2017. Web. 19Mar.2017.http://www.psa.org.au/downloads/ent/uploads/filebase/guidelines/s3/Short-acting-beta-agonist-protocol.pdf

"Transition From CFC Propelled Albuterol Inhalers To HFA Propelled Albuterol Inhalers: Questions And Answers". Fda.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/QuestionsAnswers/ucm077808.htm

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