Asthma, a chronic condition, shows itself in the form of moderate to severe attacks in which a person finds it difficult to breathe. The severity varies from one person to another. Asthma attacks are caused by the swelling of bronchial tube lines which restrict airflow to and from the lungs.
Asthma has its triggers, including inhalation of allergens, smoke and various chemical pollutants. Asthma can’t be eliminated completely. However, the disease can be managed effectively so as to allow the patients to live a better life.
Types of Asthma
Knowing about the types of asthma would help you in getting the right treatment in case you face breathing issues.
The most widespread asthma type, allergic asthma is triggered by the inhalation of allergens like pollen and molds.
Cough-variant asthma is sometimes called chronic cough to describe a cough that has lasted longer than six to eight weeks.
Work-related asthma or occupational asthma is usually triggered by exposure to chemical irritants or inhalation of allergens present in the workplace.
The trigger for exercise-induced asthma is continuous physical exertion or tremendous exercise. Usually, people with asthma feel its symptoms during exercise though there are people who develop asthma because of their exercise routine.
Health Conditions Which Mimic Asthma
There are a number of health conditions which have similar symptoms to that of asthma like dry cough and shortness of breath. Your physician would run a number of tests to eliminate all such possibilities before treating you for asthma.
Nighttime asthma’s symptoms like breathing difficulty and wheezing irritation at night make it very difficult to sleep. As a result, you remain exhausted during the day which in turn worsens the symptoms of daytime asthma.
The symptoms of asthma are:
- Breathing difficulties
- Tightness in the chest
- Sleeping issues because of constant wheezing and dry cough
- Wheezing sounds made while exhaling air (prominent indication of childhood asthma)
- A flu or cold increases the shortness of breath and dry cough attacks
When to See a Doctor
Asthma can be critical in certain cases and people should seek emergency treatment if they see any of the following signs:
- A stark increase in breathing difficulties or wheezing attacks
- No relief or change in condition with the use of a relief inhaler
- Difficulty in breathing even with little to no physical exertion
- If your cough or wheezing doesn’t go away within a week or so, it may be a sign of asthma.
- To get a follow-up on your treatment of asthma after diagnosis as controlling the disease ensures that asthma doesn’t turn out to be life-threatening at any stage.
- If your symptoms keep on worsening and you require the use of the relief inhaler more times than normal.
What Makes Asthma Symptoms More Severe?
Asthma triggers which can cause severe attacks are:
- Infectious diseases. Infections like cold, flu and cough can cause severe asthma symptoms
- Moulds and pollens. The inhalation of moulds and pollens is a trigger that causes very strong attacks.
- Doing sports. Sport usually doesn’t cause attacks and is actually good for asthma. However, using an inhaler before playing is a good idea.
- Cigarette fumes and smoking. Asthma symptoms get worse with constant exposure to smoke. It’s not just smoking that worsens asthma symptoms as passive smoking has similar effects too.
- Other chemicals and fumes. Air pollution is one of the major causes of asthma in individuals and inhalation of pollutants in air or of fumes found in paints and solvents can worsen asthma symptoms.
- Some drugs. Some people are allergic to certain drugs and taking those drugs can make asthma attacks severe. Usual drugs a few people are allergic to include aspirin, ibuprofen and atenolol.
- Some mattresses and pillows. The cause of asthma in some people are chemicals like methyl ethyl ketones emitted (in a very small amount) by mattresses and pillows.
- House dust mite. House dust mites are found in all kinds of fabrics at homes. The mite causes an increase in the severity of asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to it.
- Certain foods. Food isn’t a trigger for asthma though eating food that you are allergic to might cause an attack.
- Animal-related allergies. Asthma symptoms can become more severe when present in company with pet dogs, horses and cats in some cases.
- Stress. There is no real connection between asthma and feelings. However, emotions like stress and tension may cause an attack.
Treatments for Asthma
- An inhaler that relieves asthma
An inhaler that relieves asthma utilizes a drug that helps in broadening the airways by relaxing the airways muscle. As a result, the breathing issues subside. The reliever inhaler is best used by individuals who only require one a couple of times or so a month. For individuals with more frequent needs like thrice a week, a preventer inhaler is the better option.
- An inhaler that prevents asthma
An inhaler that prevents asthma uses steroids to keep the inflammation in the airways down so that the airway doesn’t get narrow to cause breathing difficulties and wheezing. It is for this reason that the inhaler is a called a preventer inhaler. The inhaler’s effects are felt around a week or so after being used.
- A long-term bronchodilator
If the preventer inhaler is not enough to keep the asthma symptoms under control, a long-term bronchodilator should be used in company with the preventer inhaler. The bronchodilator is similar to the inhaler that relieves asthma and usually relieves asthma for half a day after being used.
The medications normally prescribed by doctors to asthma patients are:
- Corticosteroids which are inhaled
- Cromoglicic acid (Cromolyn)
- Salmeterol which is a beta2 agonist that is inhaled
- Short-term beta2 inhaled agonists like bitolterol, pirbuterol, levalbuterol and albuterol
- Anticholinergic like Ipratropium
- Oral Steroids like Prednisone
3. Seek Help from Your Doctor
It’s best to develop a plan with your doctor and to have it present with you in writing. The plan should have the triggers which cause asthma attacks and how you can prevent them. Also the plan should list down the medications that you should take and the dosage in which you should take them depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Doctors usually recommend the use of peak flow meter to judge how effective the treatment is as far as managing your asthma is concerned.
Home Remedies for Asthma
1. Avoid Triggers
- Clean your ornaments. Dust usually worsens asthma symptoms at night so cleaning the ornaments present in your bedroom should help with it.
- Keep balanced humidity. A dehumidifier can help in balancing humidity in places where the climate is damp (use after consultation with doctor).
- Use air conditioning. The pollen that flies inside homes from grass and trees can be reduced significantly with air conditioning.
- Clean your home periodically. To make sure that your house is free from dust, you should clean your house once every week. Ask for help from someone else if the cleaning triggers an asthma attack.
- Stop mold spores from developing. Mold spores act as triggers too so it’s best to prevent them from developing by cleaning away all damp areas in and around the bathroom and kitchen.
- Avoid pet hair, fur and feathers. Pet dander is another asthma trigger so it’s best to either keep away from pets which have feathers or fur or to bathe them frequently to lessen the pet dander.
- Protect your nose and mouth when it's cold outside. Asthma symptoms can become severe in cold conditions so it’s best to wear a mask over your face when going out in such conditions.
2. Keep Healthy
- Do sports regularly. Activities that strengthen the lungs and heart are good for relieving asthma so frequently indulging in exercise and sports is recommended.
- Prevent heartburn and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux is responsible for heartburn which in turn can cause swelling in the airways causing asthma symptoms. Treatment for GERD in such cases would be necessary to treat asthma.
- Have more vegetables and fruits. Asthma symptoms decrease as the lung strengthens and the incorporation of fruits and vegetables in a diet can do that.
- Avoid being overweight. Obesity is a cause of major health issues and can cause severe asthma symptoms too. So, it’s best to manage your weight as well.
This video helps to understand asthma: