There are about three million Canadians living with the effects of asthma. It is treatable, but can be severely disabling in the worst cases. Every year, 500 people in Canada die from the consequences of an uncontrolled asthma attack.
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airway passages of the lungs. It may be mild, moderate, or severe, even in the same person from flare up to flare up. The causes are not understood. There is often a family history of asthma or respiratory disease. The symptoms of asthma can vary from person to person. Most commonly, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and a sensation of tightness in the chest are experienced.
An asthma attack may be triggered by any number of things. When that happens, the lining of the airways gets inflamed and irritated, causing the muscles surrounding them to spasm. An excess of mucus may be produced, as well. It becomes difficult to breathe and, in the worst attacks, can become impossible, leading to an emergency situation. In an asthmatic, the airways are almost always inflamed to some extent, so that when exposed to a trigger they react quickly.
The most frequent triggers are allergens such as pollen, dust, and animal dander. Cigarette and fire smoke can also be triggers. Exercise, because you are asking the airways to process more air may lead to an attack. Cold air can trigger an attack because it is irritating to already inflamed tissues. Even stress can be a trigger for some people.
Despite the fact that asthma is a treatable condition, cases of disabling asthma have risen in recent decades at a disproportionate rate relative to the prevalence of asthma in the population. The reason for this is not fully understood. Some researchers believe that it is because more time is now spent indoors, where allergic and non-allergic triggers can concentrate while the sedentary lifestyle contributes to a decline in health.
The financial impact of living with disabling asthma can be considerable. The cost of medical treatment and medications, as well as lost wages from sick days, or from not being able to work at all, can all contribute to a strained money situation. In that case, any sort of financial help can be of great value to asthmatics and their families, enabling them to live more comfortably.
Asthmatics with a significant impairment in two or more aspects of daily life, and with marked impairment in one aspect, may qualify for the Disability Tax Credit. The other main requirement is that the condition must have been, or be expected to be, present for a duration of at least one year. The tax credit can be taken by a supporting family member, if the disabled does not make enough income to pay taxes.