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Reactive Airway Disease in Adults

Reactive Airway Disease in Adults

The reactive airway disease is often confused with asthma. But, these two, although appear similar, are different from each other.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018
The terms reactive airway disease, or RAD, and asthma are often found to be used interchangeably, which is incorrect. RAD is a term used to describe a disease which is similar to asthma, but is not actually asthma. It is a respiratory disorder, caused by aerial pollutants and is non-contagious. It can be observed in children as well as adults.
What is Reactive Airway Disease
➡ It is a pulmonary disorder caused due to external irritants, and is non-allergic. It is an asthma-like condition that develops in people usually due to constant exposure to respiratory irritants like smoke, gases, fumes, dust, etc. Some of the other possible triggers for RAD include allergies (to perfumes or strong odors), infections, mold, pollen, stress, cigarette smoke, pets, etc.

On the other hand, exposure to poisonous gases like sulfur dioxide, ammonia, chlorine, etc., can also result in this disease. Most of the time, this disease is developed in adults, whose work is related to regular exposure to these chemicals. Therefore, it is also known as a work-related or occupational disease. In the year 1985, S.M. Brooks and colleagues coined the term, 'reactive airway disease'. It is also known as reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS). It is a term used for a respiratory disorder that has a history of related symptoms, but, no known cause.
Symptoms of this disease appear within the first 24 hours of the exposure to the irritants. This is one of the basic distinguishing factor between RAD and asthma. This disease can be mild as well as severe, depending on the amount of irritant exposure. Irritants may cause the respiratory tract to swell and get inflamed.

As mentioned above, symptoms of reactive airway disease are similar to that of asthma. For example, shortness of breath, wheezing, and cough are the common symptoms of RAD. Due to the inflammation of lungs, there is excess mucus production. Sometimes, excess and frequent exposure to respiratory irritants can make the condition chronic, which leads to further discomfort. However, not all symptoms of asthma are observed when suffering from this condition.

It is observed that 30% of children suffering from reactive airway disease can suffer from asthma in adulthood.
Because of its symptoms being similar to those of asthma, this disease is difficult to diagnose. However, until all the components of asthma are proven, the symptoms are related to RAD. If a person observes the above symptoms, he should consult the doctor immediately. Detailed history of symptoms, documentation; and tests like the lung function tests, etc., are essential for diagnosing asthma.

Secondly, tests like the pulmonary function test or the bronchial challenge test also aid in diagnosing this disease. These tests are meant only for adults and hence, cannot be undertaken in case of children or infants. Immediate diagnosis and treatment is required in case of respiratory diseases in order to avoid any sequelae. The doctor will prescribe medications or anti-inflammatory drugs so as to relieve the patient of the symptoms.

Although complete treatment of this disease is possible, one has to follow preventive measures to avoid this disease. Reducing exposure to pollutants and chemicals can help in prevention of reactive airway disease in adults. On the concluding note, it can only be said that it is very essential to keep a check on the symptoms and get it treated without delay. Take care!
Disclaimer: This article is meant for educational purposes only. It is not to be substituted for doctor's consultation and advice.