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Understanding Asthma

Understanding AsthmaJon Ayres, (Family Doctor Publications Ltd., 2008, £4.95). ISBN 978-1-903474-23-X. Reviewed by F. H. Falcone, University of Nottingham, UK

The Author of this volume is Jon Ayres, Professor of Environmental and Respiratory Medicine at the University of Birmingham, where he is Director of the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. He has published over 300 original journal articles, reviews and editorials and has worked as a Government advisor on air pollution for over 20 years.

Family Doctor Books is a series of small books about various health related issues which in the UK can be purchased in Pharmacies or book retailers. The volume entitled ‘Understanding asthma’ has 132 pages. It is pocket book format and comes with a transparent protective sleeve.

The book is divided into 12 short sections, followed by a short Q&A, useful addresses in the UK and a useful index. There are also references to websites which may also be of use to individuals not resident in the UK. A short section on successful web search strategies may be useful to people with limited IT experience. After a short description of the nature of asthma, where it is made clear that ‘asthma’ just like ‘cancer’ is not a single disease, but a term covering a multitude of patterns, the mechanisms and triggers underlying asthma are explained. Common triggers such as pets, exercise or sensitivity to pollen are explained using various case histories. This section is followed by a description of symptoms and diagnostic techniques or devices. Probably the most important section is the one on drugs used for treatment and asthma. This section covers the use of oral and inhaled steroids, bronchodilators, sodium cromoglycate, theophyllines and briefly mentions Xolair. The various devices for inhalation are described and explained. The following section on Asthma control will also be important to asthma sufferers. This section contains details on what to do in case of an asthma attack, an example of an asthma diary and different asthma management plans.

Overall, the language is very accessible and completely free of medical jargon. The illustrations support the explanations and are simply, but well-illustrated and in full colour. ‘Understanding Asthma’ by Professor Jon Ayres is a very valuable resource for individuals who have recently been diagnosed with asthma, as it will give them essential, authoritative information including practical tips to help them cope with their own or their relatives’ condition, for a very small price tag. As such it is highly recommended.