Asthma is a serious and chronic condition that affects the bronchial tubes or airways and prevents air from entering and coming out of the lungs.


Asthma sufferers experience symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the chest, wheezing, and coughing. Some people have asthma attacks together with a viral infection or when they exercise. Severe attacks are less frequent and common but are accompanied with more symptoms and require medical assistance. It is important to recognize the early symptoms of asthma to avoid more serious problems. These include: trouble falling asleep, headache and sore throat, runny nose, and loss of breath. Other symptoms include feeling moody and upset, nasal congestion, and coughing.

Types of Asthma and Common Symptoms and Allergens

The three main types are childhood, allergic, and occupational. Childhood or pediatric asthma is a serious condition that affects millions of children around the world. It is a chronic disorder that obstructs the airflow and causes chest tightness, wheezing, coughing at night, and nonparoxysmal coughing. Medications prescribed to children usually include relief medications and control agents. Allergic asthma is another variety that is usually caused by allergens. They cause swelling and inflammation of the airways and common symptoms such as wheezing and coughing. Allergens that trigger attacks include pollen, mold, cockroaches, dust mites, and animal dander. Food allergens rarely cause asthma symptoms but there are allergens to watch for, including shellfish and fish, wheat (gluten), soy, nuts, milk, and egg white. Preservatives added to different foods can also cause allergic asthma. These include ingredients added to foods such as pickled foods, shrimp, lemon juice, beer, wine, potatoes, and dried vegetables and fruits. Food allergies are accompanied by a different set of symptoms, some of which are typical for asthma while others are not. These include nasal congestion, sneezing, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, rushes, and hives.

The third variety or occupational asthma is usually triggered by dust, gases, and fumes at the workplace. Irritants that cause attacks are often used in the chemical and petroleum industries and include substances such as ammonia, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and others. Attacks are more severe during shifts or days or nights at work and are usually caused by exposure to high concentrations. People who suffer from food allergies and those with a family history of allergies are at a higher risk of developing occupational asthma. They are also more likely to experience attacks triggered by latex, animal dander, flour, etc. Treatment depends on different factors and usually requires a visit to an immunologist or allergist. The reason is that allergens often trigger symptoms and cause occupational asthma attacks. Animal protein is a risk factor for laboratory workers, animal handlers, fishermen, veterinarians, and others. Common irritants in the chemistry, construction, and other industries include foam, rubber, plastics, insulation, painting sprays, and so on. Studies show that 10 percent of workers develop occupational asthma due to long-term exposure to chemicals and other harmful substances.

Other Causes of Asthma Symptoms

There are environmental and genetic factors as well as medical conditions associated with asthma, including hay fever, eczema, atopic disease, allergic rhinitis, and autoimmune disorders. People who are overweight are also at a higher risk because their lungs are not performing as well. Exposure to substances used in agriculture as well as tobacco smoke and air pollution also trigger attacks. Smoking while pregnant is also a risk factor. In persons who develop asthma, bacterial and viral infections of the airways worsen the symptoms of the disease.


There are different health insurance plans in Canada, including flexible and comprehensive plans that offer coverage for health-related expenses such as medical equipment, physiotherapy, emergency services, and medications for serious and chronic conditions. Many insurance companies in Canada offer customers different types of coverage, including comprehensive, standard, and basic plans.

Coverage by Private Providers

Private providers offer comprehensive plans that cover emergency travel expenses, supplemental healthcare, and prescription medications. Optional coverage is offered for semi-private hospital rooms and dental services, including orthodontics and restorative services and prevention. Basic plans are aimed at customers on a low income to help them budget for health-related and dental services. Some providers offer coverage that is specifically aimed at recent graduates and students, newcomers to Canada, retirees and persons close to retirement, as well as small business owners and self-employed persons. Those with no access to group benefits plans are also offered insurance coverage, including persons who are contract workers, those with high-risk jobs, part-time workers, temporary workers, and others. There are also options for persons over 65 who are still working. They benefit from comprehensive coverage, including travel insurance, medical equipment, physiotherapy, massage therapy, vision care, hospital accommodation, medications, dental and vision care, and more.

Supplemental Coverage

Usually private providers offer supplemental insurance that covers things like oxygen equipment, incontinence supplies, diabetic supplies, and hearing and mobility aids. Supplemental plans also cover prosthetic and orthopedic equipment and services offered by speech language therapists, occupational and counseling therapists, psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, and other professionals.

Public Health Insurance

All citizens and permanent residents are entitled to public health insurance which is funded through taxes. While emergency medical services are offered free of charge by the provincial authorities, restrictions may apply based on immigration status. Note that government health insurance only covers basic services while private providers offer more comprehensive coverage. Refugee claimants and protected persons are entitled to temporary insurance which covers outpatient and inpatient hospital care, ambulance, diagnostic and laboratory tests, and medical exams and care by registered nurses and doctors. Post-natal and pre-natal care is also covered under the temporary coverage. The Interim Federal Health Program provides prescription drugs, supplemental, and basic coverage to detainees, victims of human trafficking, and ineligible and eligible refugee claimants.

Coverage for Public Service Employees

The Public Services Healthcare Plan provides coverage to public services retirees and employees. Only employees at participating organizations are eligible to apply. The list of organizations includes the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian Commercial Corporation, Atomic Energy Control Board, Atlantic Pilotage Authority, and others. Different types of plans are offered, including public service health and dental care plans and the disability insurance plan.

Plans by the Provincial Authorities

There are also medical services plans offered by the provincial authorities. One example is the medical services plan offered by the BC provincial government which offers coverage to eligible residents. Lawfully admitted residents and citizens are eligible to apply. There are also eligibility criteria for First Nations residents and spouses, children, and other dependents. The plan offers coverage for supplemental healthcare and medical care, including orthodontic services, oral and dental surgeries, x-rays and other diagnostic services, maternity care, and medically required services. Supplementary benefits include non-surgical podiatry, physical therapy, naturopathy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and others.

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